Sunday, 20 September 2015


As regular readers of this blog will know, I'm a big fan of horror short films. As such, when Film4 FightFest announced that it would be screening a group of shorts commissioned by Channel 4 under the A Moment of Horror banner, I was pretty excited — and beside myself when I heard that they would then be available to watch for free through Channel 4's on demand service, All 4, after the festival.
Having watched all six of the shorts I was not disappointed and then I had the bright idea of resurrecting my old Sinister Six features to rank them all.
Now before we get to the countdown I do need to stress that all of the short films are of a sterling quality and the actual difference in perceived quality between the first and last here is negligible. In short, you should watch them all!
With that in mind, let's press on...


Dir: Andrew Brand
Starring: Alexa Brown, Tom Geens, Dudley the dog

Those of you who've owned dogs will be familiar with those strange times at which your family pet suddenly decides to bark at thin air, usually with absolutely no warning late at night.
Brand's atmospheric short gives us a closer look at one such incident as Linda (the superb Brown) finds her peaceful evening disturbed by her dog Max's sudden and unrelenting barking.
The brisk story follows Linda and her pet right up until the point at which we see exactly what has caused the disturbance.
I imagine several readers will be pretty annoyed at my decision to place What The Dog Saw in this position — and for good reason too. The short is fantastically creepy with a real atmosphere of mounting tension as Linda makes her way through her dark home.
However, the reason it's ranked so low is because I felt the ending fell a little flat. The reveal at the end was not particularly well executed, nor was what revealed that frightening. Combine this with the fact that the short then sort of peters out without hitting us with a sharp shock and you have my reason for placing this film in sixth place.


Dir: Michelle Fox
Starring: Meghan Doyle, Katie Tranter

As young Harriet (Doyle) looks to skive off work by playing around on her phone in the ladies' room, her slave-driver boss becomes irate, sending a text demanding she gets back to work.
The put-upon Harriet ignores the message, instead texting friends. However, it soon becomes apparent that she may not be alone in the lavatory as somebody (or something) desperately warns her to get out of there...
There's a lot to like in Fox's short film. It's probably the coolest of the bunch and has a couple of brilliantly unnerving moments (that breathing sound was spine-chilling) while the talented Doyle does some good work in the lead role. There's some nifty editing which gives the short  a really dynamic feel, no mean feat when you consider the fact that the vast majority of it takes place within the confines of a toilet cubicle. 
However, it does lack a little substance to go with that style. The story itself is pretty underdeveloped and leaves quite a few unanswered questions. Fun? Yes. Fulfilling? Not so much.


Dir: Rose Glass
Starring: Elizabeth Chan

There's a tried and trusted formula in horror of unspeakable frights occurring while a victim is in the bath. I suppose this comes from the inherent vulnerability that comes with being naked, so Glass's decision to combine this with a character's emotional fragility is very clever indeed.
Chan plays a young woman enjoying a relaxing bath while she listens to a self-help tape to overcome her inner fears. However, as the shadows around her peaceful little haven deepen, it becomes clear that maybe not all her fears are internal.
This is a fantastic short that does a splendid job of building suspense (thanks in no small part to Chan's excellent work as she utterly conveys a believable sense of mounting desperate terror), as Glass shoots the film marvellously before springing a lovely double trap towards the end. There is something terribly disconcerting about the last shot, making this a decidedly strong effort from the A Moment of Horror team.


Dir: Lee Lennox
Starring: Eline Powell, Honey-Rose Quinn, Thom Fell

I'll be honest with you here, I could have given first place to any of these top three shorts, as each utterly delivers on its own front.
Lennox's Behind You combines elements of The Babadook with any number of creepy kid stories. Taking the familiar 'babysitter reads a bedtime story to her young charge' situation, the work from the leads — Powell as babysitter Lara and Quinn as young Rosie — is excellent. The book is a wonderfully scary prop from production designer William Hooper and the manner in which it starts off as simply a bit creepy and quickly escalates into something absolutely horrible is excellently Lennox does a superb job of subverting the innocence of childhood into something far darker. There's a fantastic scary reveal towards the end of the short and the killer ending delivers sadistic thrills in spades. 
With some great camera work, some equally cool make-up by Dan Martin and Liam Doyle and a simple but effective plot, this is a high-quality horror short.


Dir: Christian James
Starring: Alice Lowe, David Oakes

The parents among you will be familiar with those times in the early hours, somewhere between asleep and awake when your body finds itself stumbling through the darkness to answer the insistent demands of your new arrival.
James' absolutely brilliant short takes this scenario and spins it on its head. When half-asleep, we are less alert — which makes us more vulnerable to malevolent forces, and James uses this to fantastic effect.
In this film the very impressive Lowe utterly gets us onside with her likeable and believable performance and the sheer dread of the story as she makes her way into her little one's room to commence nursing is masterfully executed by James.
There's a phenomenon in horror — and sometimes in gross-out comedy — in which an understated character reaction lets us, the wider audience, guess at the decidedly horrible reveal about to come (see a slip in an as-yet unrevealed puddle or the infamous line 'so wet' in Cabin Fever). This short has one such moment guaranteed to have you wincing at the screen.
Combine these factors with the It's Alive-esque shock ending reveal and you can see why Night Feed is a real winner.


Dir: Weronika Tofilska
Starring: John Atterbury, Thomas Fitzpatrick

The story to Weronika Tofilska's The Doorkeeper is disarmingly simple — an elderly man completes his rounds in a murky, dusty old house, closing all of the doors. 
There's no sudden, heart-stopping jolts in there — it's simply a man (the marvellous Atterbury who will be familiar to Harry Potter fans for his work as Sirius Black's ancestor and former headmaster of Hogwarts, Phineas) slowly realising that something else is roaming the corridors and then coming to a shocking conclusion. Even that twist-ending isn't particularly original, echoing a very highly regarded supernatural thriller (that I shan't name to avoid spoiling this short).
However, the reason that The Doorkeeper is in top spot is because it executes all of these elements PERFECTLY. I've mentioned masterclasses in suspense and tension so far, but trust me — this feels like a classic ghost story and positively drips with spooky atmosphere. Alistair Little's cinematography is absolutely sumptuous and the muted colours make the whole film feel as if it takes place somewhere between life and death. The cast are wonderful, Atterbury utterly owns the screen, conveying nuanced and complex emotions with the simplest of gestures or shifts in expression.
The tale itself (at the risk of spoiling it so be careful) echoes the sadness and helplessness of good old fashioned Victorian ghost story and that, ultimately, haunts far more than any jump scares or gore geysers. Tofilska has managed to create a horror story that feels vintage and thoroughly modern all at the same time. It's a timeless tale and one that you'd be crazy to ignore, especially as it's available to watch for free RIGHT NOW.

To watch all of these awesome short films, head over to All 4's A Moment of Horror page right here.

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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