Gabriel Olson's "The Bridge Partner" is a wonderful exercise in slowburn tension and impending horror, for the first few minutes of the twelve-minute short film basically let us know which direction this short will go; the trick is getting through that remaining twelve-or-so-minutes and emerging as safe and calm as possible. The short focuses on Mattie (Beth Grant, who we horror fans will recognize as the strict teacher in "Child's Play 2"), an older housewife who enjoys indulging in a rousing game of bridge once a week at a local community center. One day, she is assigned a new partner by the name of Olivia (Sharon Lawrence), another woman about the same age as her. In the midst of a close game one day, Olivia leans over and whispers to Mattie five words that would send shivers up anyone's spine: "I'm going to kill you."
Mattie's sanity and ability to focus becomes tested instantly; she is constantly on edge, afraid to return to the center to engage in her weekly game, especially if she now has to fear for her life. Olivia speaks with the soft-spoken elegance of a golf announcer and maintains the professionalism of an office interviewer; she's unassuming in looks but off-putting in mannerisms, leading Mattie to become apprehensive around her and even her husband, who doesn't believe her when she makes note of her partner's threat.
"The Bridge Partner" is a slender little thriller; one I would've loved to see extended out past the confines of twelve minutes and extended for maybe twice the length. However, the key to this short is mystery, which this does indeed provide. Throughout its runtime, it's a consistently unsettling film, where Olson's camera largely focuses on close-ups and extreme close-ups of physical features, such as eyes, facial expressions, and fingernails in one jolting scene. There are pleasant mixes of melodrama and thriller elements here, all of which Olson, who also serves as screenwriter, handles quite nicely.
Finally, there are the performances of Grant and Lawrence, two fine women who handle their fairly simple characters with great chemistry and electrifying abilities to captivate, specifically Grant with her innocence and desperation to get to the bottom of this circumstance and Lawrence with her unfathomable directness and motives. Together, with Olson at the helm, "The Bridge Partner" is an effectively eerie but intense thriller that capitalizes on the mobilization of slowburn tactics rather than blunt force, something that, more often than not, always makes for a pleasant endeavor.
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