Phantom Edit

by Brunette Coleman

Phantom Edit brings together two film works by the American artists Jacky Connolly and Garrett Pruter. Each film uses digital manipulation and complex editing techniques to reinvent plots from well-known media – in Connolly’s, the video game Grand Theft Auto V, and in Pruter’s, Alfred Hitchcock’s seminal thriller, The Birds (1963).

By combining 3D animation with existing gameplay from Grand Theft Auto V, Jacky Connolly’s film Descent into Hell (2022), guides the viewer through the abandoned corners of contemporary Los Angeles and into the surrounding desert. Using the technique known as machinima, Connolly manipulates the game’s in-built camera, allowing her to roam freely within the digital landscape. Through this process, Connolly removes the violence which the game is renowned for. Instead, we witness a woman roaming between curious encounters around the empty city. Each scene passes like a lapsing dream, suspended in white noise and trance music. The atmosphere stems from an internet trend that was born during the pandemic: ‘reality shifting’, where someone can force themselves into a hypnagogic state and transport to another reality. Jacky notes how teenagers report that, ‘by listening to tranceinducing audio and creating a script to follow, they are accessing alternate realities’. Much of Descent into Hell captures this sense of shapeshifting through time, each episode dispelling the last.

Garrett Pruter’s film, The Birds (2023), despite its title mirroring Hitchcock’s exactly, is stripped of birds altogether. Similar to Connolly’s adaptation of Grand Theft Auto V, Garrett removes the threat entirely. In Hitchcock’s thriller, flocks of crows intermittently descend on Bodega Bay in California, attacking people as they scurry for shelter. But in Garrett’s tireless edit, the characters flail at nothing, the faint trails of birds revealing subtle remnants of their former selves. He notes that he is exposing ‘the power that voids like these seem to hold over us, in their ability to act as a placeholder for a wide range of anxieties projected by the viewer’. As the scene plays out the sound of samples from the film merge with homespun Foley recordings by Garrett, displacing us still further from Hitchcock’s original, and we are compelled to confront our own fixations and paranoias.