Jamie Lee Curtis and Russell Goldman's Return to Sender Inspired by Brushing Scam
Allison Tolman as Julia in Return to Sender courtesy of Russell Goldman

“Return to Sender,” a new short film from Russell Goldman and his Comet Pictures boss Jamie Lee Curtis, was inspired by the pair’s experiences with brushing scams — a common racket in which products are mailed to people who didn’t order them in order to boost an e-commerce seller’s ratings and reviews.

“My sister, at the time, was turning 64. It was her Beatles birthday. It’s mine coming up. And she got these — she asked me if I sent her walking sticks, which would be a great gift for somebody turning 64. I said I hadn’t. She said, ‘That’s very weird,’ and then she did the research, and she found that… she wasn’t the only one,” Curtis said. “I called Russell and I said, ‘We need to make a movie called ‘Return to Sender.””

Out now on Vimeo, Alter, and Omeleto, the result is an unsettling horror-thriller short starring Allison Tolman, directed by Russell Goldman and produced by the Everything Everywhere All At Once star. It was the opening night selection of the HollyShorts Film Festival this past weekend.

“Return to Sender” follows the story of Julia, a woman who begins receiving mysterious packages containing products she didn’t order that seem to be specifically targeted at her and her personal struggles. As she descends into paranoia, she begins to suspect a conspiracy much larger than a simple brushing scam.

Soon after Curtis brought the idea for the movie to Goldman, he received a strange box in the mail himself.

“I bought a Valentine’s Day gift for my partner, and inside the package — and it was still sealed — were these dirty shin guards that smelled terrible. I dropped them on the ground, I remember that part very well. And it made me think a lot about how we bring —  especially in that moment, it was still that pandemic year — how the interactions that we have with strangers are largely going to be delivery people, and the things that we’re bringing into our home are these objects that we’re ordering. And I, from there, became very fixated on an idea,” he said.

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Curtis gave Russell full control over the artistic vision of the short and encouraged him to run wild with it.

“A woman alone in her house, in an apartment, receiving things she didn’t order that there’s no record of, is inherently f—ing terrifying… that then became 100% Russell’s vision. From that moment on, the short became Russell’s,” she said. “He made it for a very tight budget. He was incredibly prepared for it.”

“Return to Sender” is Russell Goldman’s fourth short film that he’s directed. As the head of Curtis’ production company Comet Pictures, which has a first-look deal with Blumhouse, he served as additional crew on Halloween and Halloween Kills. He and Curtis also co-wrote her upcoming horror film Mother Nature, which she’ll direct and produce, and which is soon to be a graphic novel by New Yorker comic artist and writer Karl Stevens.

Goldman said having “Return to Sender” open HollyShorts was a special treat.

“That was amazing,” he said. “You wait for the longest time to hear what the life of the movie is going to be and how you’re going to release it, and the movie is 18 minutes, which I know is on the longer end for a lot of short films. I did start to have a moment of, like, I was incredibly proud of the work and… I love the reactions of everyone who’s able to share it, but I did not know, necessarily, if an 18-minute movie would have the biggest life. And then around when I finished my follow-up short, or shooting it, is when I started getting this barrage of acceptances. HollyShorts was a really exciting one.”

Watch “Return to Sender” on Vimeo here or above.

Main Image: Allison Tolman as Julia in “Return to Sender” courtesy of Russell Goldman