Blending the comical with the weird, Meat Friend is a short film telling the story of a young girl making a very strange new friend. Izzy Lee (Re-Home, Innsmouth) directed and co-wrote the short film along with co-writer Steve Johanson. In it, a little girl named Billie (Marnie McKendry) attempts to microwave hamburger meat and unwittingly awakens a talking, anthropomorphic blob of meat named “Meat Friend”. Meat Friend teaches Billie important life lessons, such as to never snitch and how to make creative “accidents”. Yet their friendship is short lived, as Billie soon realizes Meat Friend is anything but friendly.
Clocking in at just over 8 minutes, Meat Friend was shot in only 2 days during the pandemic. The film has the bright, cheery look and feel of a children’s show, even down to some of the cutesy effects and simplified puppetry. Yet the character of Meat Friend is not someone you would want on your educational children’s show. It creates a twisted and hilarious juxtaposition that the filmmakers really lean into, even having Meat Friend refer to Billie as “children” in each scene, no matter how many times Billie tries to correct him.
Meat Friend has a small yet memorable cast. Marnie McKendry (Tales of Halloween) plays young Billie. McKendry does a wonderful job of carefully walking that line between portraying Billie as a bit of a spoiled child while also still managing to be endearing. It’s clear she isn’t necessarily a bad kid, but she is easily influenced by her beefy friend. Co-writer Steve Johanson does the voice of Meat Friend. While I can’t say I’ve ever heard a living ball of ground beef speak, I would imagine Johanson’s voice acting would be fairly accurate to what one would expect. And an honorable mention goes to Megan Duffy (Maniac, All the Creatures Were Stirring) who plays Billie’s mom.
In keeping with the whimsical feel of classic kid’s shows, Meat Friend utilizes quirky effects that add to the humor of the short film. The most obvious effect is the ground beef that forms a humanoid bust with blank, soulless eyes. The puppet for the titular character is simplistic, which lends to the children’s show aesthetic, while also being rather grotesque. Meat Friend even utilizes smaller CGI effects to add fun flash art pops.
Meat Friend perfectly blends dark satire with childlike whimsy. It’s the perfect short film for parents who are probably sick of being forced to watch the same children’s TV shows with their kids. Yet the dark humor and horror elements still make it enjoyable for a wider audience. Lee clearly knows what she’s doing and is able to achieve a great balance between the different themes introduced. This is a short film you will want to keep an eye out for as it makes its way through the film festival circuit.
OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5