Mail Order (2011) Review

by Jason Lees,

There are certain tricks when it comes to adapting a short story to film. Novels, while obviously longer and more complex, seem to be more forgiving to the new medium when they’re translated. All that extra literary real estate offers up more opportunities for the filmmaker to pick and choose what to present to an audience. With a short story, if you don’t almost take the written word point by point, you can come up with something miles away from the source material. That’s especially true when it comes to literary works that are written in the first person or that recount one character’s observations. When it’s a straight forward expositional piece, something like King’s SURVIVOR TYPE, then it’s possible to take the story straight from page to screen, but when it’s something like Jack Ketchum’s MAIL ORDER, which is mostly subjective from the point of reference to the main character and his memories, then that translation is much more difficult.

That’s just a long and overly wordy way of saying that writer/director Eric Shapiro didn't pick an easy story to make into a short film. Nope, no gimme here. Ketchum makes him work for it.

The short, which you can find in Ketchum’s collection PEACEABLE KINGDOM, is about a man who has a certain unique taste in cinema. Less Blockbuster, and more Faces of Death. Rather than searching for that perfect Sandra Bullock rom com, Howard is searching for the perfect snuff film. It’s a point in the short story that Ketchum handles like an obsession, something that consumes Howard’s private life without making it too heavyhanded or blocky. In prose, we experience his taste by glimpsing into his memories, without seeing too much.

That works really well on the page. Let’s face it, Ketchum is a certified master at his craft so that shouldn’t be a surprise. Lately he’s been getting some serious big screen time, with films based on his work like Lucky McKee’s upcoming THE WOMAN. He’s not that easy to adapt (see OFFSPRING and THE GIRL NEXT DOOR), but when he’s done right (see RED and THE LOST) he’s golden.

Shapiro, fortunately, does it right. With a few minor tweaks, he’s taken a nice and grim story and made something special. I’ve said this before, but I really feel that if you’re going to make a short film, make a short film. Don’t just make a condensed feature or a demo reel for yourself. Realize that the short film is its own artcraft and don’t ignore that. I’m not saying Shapiro’s ever heard me ramble on, but he might be a fellow believer. What he’s done with MAIL ORDER is to make a solid little movie that economically comes in and gets the job done.

Another aspect of the short film format is that it’s the place that filmmakers can really play around and experiment. If you’re going to invest your life savings into a feature, then maybe you might want to play it a bit careful, but if you’re only shelling out enough green (or whatever color your credit card is) for a short, then by all means stretch a little. Try new things. Play with time or other conventions of filmic language.

Shapiro does that here. From the opening, we see the world through Howard’s eyes in a distinct style. It can be a bit distracting at times, but it’s something that works here in small doses. The repetitive nature of his edits, while jarring, works to set up a mood that would wear out its welcome in a feature, but here succeeds as a way into Howard’s redundant life.

I need to go back and look up Shapiro’s other films. I’m curious what the man does when he’s not under the constraints of the short format, but from what I’ve seen on display here, I bet it’s pretty solid.

MAIL ORDER is a experience that Ketchum fans should seek out. I’d love to see an anthology made up of nothing but film adaptations of his shorter fiction. For now, though, I’m going to have to be satisfied that there’s another strong Ketchum flick out there to enjoy.

For now.

Please Share on Social Media:

Send your horror news scoop to press[at]

Top 50 Horror Movie Blog

Like us on Facebook:

Recent Horror Movie Reviews

Detention (2011) Review
We Are The Night Review
Hate Crime (2012) Review
Dead of Night Review
The Violent Kind Review
Piranha 3DD Review
Funeral Home Review
DeadHeads Review
Playback Review
House Of Flesh Mannequins Review
More Brains! A Return to the Living Dead Review
The Mutilator Review
The Psycho Legacy Review
Halloween II: 30th Anniversary Blu-ray Review
Full Tilt Boogie Review
Nightmare City Review
The Divide Review
Penumbra Review
Hellraiser Revelations Review
Entrance Review
Asylum Blackout Review
Mother's Day Review
Dead Pit Review
Them Review
Anguish Review
Snow White: A Deadly Summer Review
Snow White: A Deadly Summer Review
Theatre of the Deranged Review
Grimm Season One Review
Kids Go to the Woods…Kids Get Dead Review
Trilogy of Blood Review
Kill Devil Hill Review
Intruder Review
Malevolence Review
A Horrible Way to Die Review
Halloween II (Rob Zombie) Review
Final Destination 5 Review
The Killing of Jacob Marr Review
Stake Land Review
The Reef Review
Cowboys and Zombies Review
Necromentia Review
The Ward Review
The Caller Review
Bereavement Review
Kidnapped Review
The Hills Run Red Review
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) Review
Home Sweet Home Review
Super Hybrid Review
Dead Hooker in A Trunk Review
30 Days of Night: Dark Days Review
Paranormal Activity 2 Review
Cannibal Holocaust Review
The Woman Review
Dylan Dog Review
Medium Raw Review
One Dark Night (1983) Review
Groupie Review
The Tingler Review
Dolls Review
Detention Review
Bitter Feast Review
Camp Hell Review
Scream of The Banshee Review
FEARnet's Twisted Comedy Review
Just Before Dawn Review
Carriers Review
Mangrove Slasher 2 Review
LEWIS Review
The Task Review
cathARTic Review
Matrimony Review
Fright Night II Review
Yakuza Weapon Review
Hobo With a Shotgun Review
Plague Town Review
The Defiled Review
Goblin Review
Primal Review
Heartless Review
Pieces Review
True Blood: Season 3 Review
Murder Party Review
Hell Night Review
Skin Eating Jungle Vampires Review
I Saw The Devil Review
Red Riding Hood Review
Drive Angry Review
Blood Night Review
Dismal Review
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Review
The Faceless Review
Fertile Ground Review
Slaughterhouse Review
Amityville 4 Review
Aftermath Review
Savage Review
Ninjas vs Vampires Review
Swamp Shark Review
The Loved Ones Review
Black and Orange Review - Novel
Terror Vision Review
Vanishing on 7th Street: Movie Review
JAWS Review
Future Kill Review
Bad Elements: Crystal Dragon Review - Novel
Daughter of Horror Review
Death of The Dead Review
The Possession of David O Reilly Review
SCREAM 4 Review
Track of The Moon Beast (1976) Review
Hyenas Review
Mongolian Death Worm Review
Black Death Review
World War Z (audio book) Review
Resident Evil: Afterlife 3D Review
The Absent Review
Alien vs Ninja Review
Missing Linx (Comic) Review
Thankskilling Review
Death Spa (1988) Review
Insidious Review
Basket Case (1982) Review
The Walking Dead: Season 1 Review
PROWL Review
April Fools Day (1986) Review
In The Mouth of Madness Review
Machete Review
White Dog (1982) Review
SAW: 3D (The Final Chapter) Review
A Serbian Film Review
[REC] Review
The Devil's Rejects Review
SAW Review
Burial Ground (1981) Review
Hollowed Ground Review
Roid Rage Review
Psych:9 Review
Let Me In Review
My Soul To Take Review
The New York Ripper Review
Burnt Offerings (1976) Review
I Spit On Your Grave (1978) Review
I Spit On Your Grave (2010) Review
Wicked, Wicked (1973) Review
Maniac (1980) Review
Deadline (1981) Review
Death Bell Review
The Rite Review
HUSK Review
Cemetery Man Review
Seconds Apart Review
Buried Review
The Uninvited (1944) Review
Direct Your Own Damn Movie Review
City of the Living Dead (1980)Review
The Forest (1982) Review
JIGOKU (1960) Review
Let The Right One In Review
Lost Boys: The Thirst Review
Near Dark (1987) Review
The Human Centipede Review
Thirst (2009) Review
Night School (1981) Review
Night of The Demons (Remake) Review
The Splat Pack Review
The Maid Review
Hatchet II Review
The Last Exorcism Review
Victim Review
Shadowland Review
Bloody New Year Review
Black Christmas (1974) Review
Splice Review
The Art of Hammer Review (Book)
Doghouse Review
The Blair Witch Project Review
Horror Movie Freak Review (Book)
Lake Placid 3 Review
Paranormal Activity Review
Sella Turcica Review
The House of The Devil Review
UNDEAD Review (Novel)
The Woman In Black Review
Ghost Story Review
Eraserhead Review
Day of The Dead Review
The Woman Review
Night Of The Living Dead Review
Terror at Red Wolf Inn Review
The Theatre Bizarre Review
The Mortician Movie Review
Happy Birthday To Me Review
Mountaintop Motel Massacre Film Review
Frankenhooker Blu-Ray Review
The Necro Files Review
Donner Pass Review
Shark Night Review
Night Feeders Review
New Year's Evil Review
Never Sleep Again Review
Creature Review
Haunting at The Beacon Review
Zombie Review
Chromeskull Laid to Rest 2 Review
Devil's Rock Review
Fright Night (Remake) Review
Area 51 Review
Five Senses (comic) Review
Antropophagus Review
Lightning Bug Review
Never Feed the Troll Review
Alone in The Dark Review
Dead Alive Review
Zeke Review
Laid to Rest Review
The Beyond Review
Monsterwolf Review
Splinter Review
Mirrors 2 Review
Mail Order Review
Snowtown Review
The Dead Review
The Shrine Review
Run Bitch Run Review
Mutilation Mile Review
The Howling Reborn Review
The Human Centipede 2 Review
The Walking Dead Review
The Echo Review
Dream House Review
Yellow Brick Road Review
Baby Blood Review
Halloween 3 Review
Feast Review
The Child's Eye Review
Scourge Review
Martyrs Review
Mothman Review
Wrong Turn 4 Review
The Keep Review
Red State Review
Paranormal Activity 3 Review
Deviling Review
Slugs Review
Nightmare on Elm Street 2 Review
Night of The Hunter Review
Pick Me Up Review
Hillside Cannibals Review
Friday the 13th (1980) Review
The Green Monster Review
The Thing (2011) Review
Night of The Vampire Review
Killer Review
Alyce Review
The Fog Review
Of Unknown Origin Review
The Revenant Review
Exit 33 Review
Rage of the Yeti Review
Let's Scare Jessica to Death Review
Territories Review
Blood Freak Review
Solstice Review
Blood Roses Review
The Haunting Review
Silent Night Deadly Night Review
Silent Night Deadly Night Review Review
Rare Exports Review
Ashes Review
Perfect Witness Review
Santa's Slay Review
Little Deaths Review
Lips of Blood Review
Bill Oberst Jr.
Silent Night Deadly Night 5 Review
Don't Let Him Review
Hell Driver Review