As most of you Fellow Fans know, I’m a big fan of short-format horror films; there’s just something about a quickie vignette that punches you in the face, no drawn-out backstory or exposition to clutter your senses, just a “here it is — deal with it” situation that leaves you thinking about it after the credits have rolled…and leaves your skin crawling as you lie there with the lights out pondering what you’ve seen…well, that’s if the filmmakers have done their job well. Like any horror film (or film, period), short films have their hits and their duds; it’s up to those of us obsessive horror types to sift through them and find the gems in the slag.
Chris and Robert Smellin, a pair of Australian brothers that also happen to be a filmmaking duo, approached us here at the ‘Corpse to see if we’d be willing to check out their short horror films, Zero and She’s Having A Baby…being that I’m one who’s always willing to check out a short, I jumped at the opportunity…and I’m certainly glad that I did.
Going in blind, I watched Zero first.
A woman and what appears to be her husband are quietly and grimly dealing with some draining task; something involving biohazard gear, including gas masks. Unable to easily cope with this situation, they invite pair of relatives (or friends of the family; it’s never made clear, nor is it important) over, hoping, I guessed, for either direction or assistance in dealing with the horrific problem.
You see, the child of these unfortunate parents has something wrong with him; dreadfully wrong. Fans of horror will have no problem determining the ailment that afflicts the child, but what makes this film different from the norm are the questions of morality and humanity that it brings up. How far would you go to protect your child? Would you risk everything, even humanity itself? The whole “death with dignity” question is also brushed against, although neither directly nor in a preachy fashion. All in all, the emotional investment that this fifteen-minute film elicits is a strong and palpable thing, the atmosphere heavy with the horror of the impossible decision faced by these poor people far more so than the ramifications of the disease itself. The fact of what the affliction is, as it often has been with similar films (well, at least when they’re done well), is merely background to the morality play.
Still digesting this quarter-hour of psychological quandary, I settled in for She’s Having A Baby.
A man is bound to a bed, while an attractive blond woman fiddles around with some items that are unmistakable as pregnancy tests and fertility charts; also, we’re shown an interesting gallery of photos on the wall, suggesting that this poor sap isn’t the first to find himself in this position. At first, there’s a kind of spooky eroticism in the film, the woman speaking in creepily psychotic tones, alluding to the good times to be had and her strong desire for a child…right before she severs the man’s Achilles tendons. From there, the film assumes a strange cadence that is both a reversal of what we’re used to in abduction films, and something of a more sexualized homage to Misery. As we the audience are largely tied to that little bed with the hapless man, we watch as helpless as he is as bodies are drug out of the place, and we witness the woman’s slow burn when she realizes that (after a strangely done but very fitting sex scene) she’s not pregnant. Our hero (for lack of a better term) convinces her to try again, but even if she conceives, will he be freed? Held as a father? Or become yet another picture on the wall? What are her plans for her child, for chrissakes?
All the questions left hanging by each film are the bread and butter of a good short; we the audience finish the story ourselves, filling in the blanks…or not filling them in, the pondering of the unanswered questions adding to the pastiche of the horror that’s created.
Both of these films were very professionally done, with production value high and above the budgets that they had to have had. The Smellin brothers obviously have quite the love and reverence for the genre that it takes to make a good film, maintaining a certain level of dread and hopelessness in the atmospheres of both shorts.
Across the board the acting was much more professional than I expected, and by and large was very good with all of the principals in the two films (a particular tip of the hat to Wendy Bos, who was Jenny, the crazy wannabe mom in She’s Having A Baby; her performance was a perfect blend of the psychotic and the sympathetic). Though not blood baths, each of the films had their moments of gore, with very nicely done makeup effects and a nice bit of the red stuff to keep you interested; these were even more impressive in their quality considering again the low budgets. Finally, the story content was high and above the average short-format horror; for indie films to broach such sensitive subjects as those addressed in this pair and weave them into intriguing and entertaining horror-movie storylines is something that’s not often accomplished by even big budget features.
I’ll definitely be interested in films bearing the Smellin Brothers name in the future.
My two for these two.
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