REVIEW: ‘Erax’ is Total Nostalgic Fun

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Erax - But Why Tho

Erax is a Netflix Original short film directed by Hebru Brantley, written by Brantley and Henry G.M. Jones, and starring Jasmine Cephas Jones as Opal and Genesis White as Nina. When Opal comes home late for her niece Nina’s birthday party, it’s not a surprise to anybody. The contents of the strange book she brought Nina, however, are quite surprising.

Erax is wholly the product of nostalgia for a time when you could make up a totally wild, original premise, use a bunch of puppets to add  some creatures to the mix, and make a movie out of it. It’s a whole bunch of fun in a small package, wasting no time trying to explain itself beyond what you see right on the screen so as to deliver a concise kid-friendly thriller. The first half sets the stage: Auntie Opal is clearly the closest thing to a mother that Nina has, but she’s not exactly fulfilling all of her promise there. Nina resents it but also has been hardened by the stress and disappointment already. It’s a good set up that makes their relationship a bit more dynamic than simply aunt and niece. There’s tension, frustration, and guilt.

When her last-minute birthday gift goes awry though, and a squad of Erax are released from the book’s pages, they only have until the hourglass runs out to get them back inside or they’ll be turned into Erax themself. It’s so simple, but that’s why it works. You don’t have to understand anything besides exactly what the story is giving you. There’s no guessing at mysteries or trying to understand some complicated logic. It’s just a goofy premise and instant action ensues. It’s a simple, almost juvenile comedy that ensues, and it’s totally endearing the whole way through.

The design of the Erax is simple as well, they’re rather non-descript in the canon of small, chaotic, menacing creatures. But they’re excellently crafted and performed with perhaps more heart than the humans at times. While Opal and Nina leave a bit to be desired in their line readings her and there, the Erax are comical in both their scripting and their physicality. It helps that a blooper reel in the credits helps give them even more personality and life, but even prior, you can’t help but enjoy their presence. Knowing too that they’re real puppets and that Erax isn’t exactly a major motion picture helps diminish some of the impact of the awkward acting. None of the short film takes itself overly seriously, so its easier to forgive when serious-seeming moments aren’t perfect.

What is perfect is the ending. It makes one small, subtle, easy to miss choice that completely changes the way I saw the previous 10 minutes of movie. Leaving the smallest, most insignificant moment to question whether it all really happened changed my whole perspective on Opal and her relationship to Nina in the best of ways.

Erax is a fun, simple short film nostalgic for the 80s but timeless in its execution, with a fun premise and great use of practical creatures.

Erax is streaming now on Netflix.


Erax
8/10

TL;DR

Erax is a fun, simple short film nostalgic for the 80s but timeless in its execution, with a fun premise and great use of practical creatures.