Well, here’s something a little different. For those who have kept track of my various writing on low-budget films over the last few years, you’ll know that I have a love/hate relationship with anthologies. Mostly hate.
Not hate for the anthology format in general – I’m obviously a fan of the old Amicus anthology films, TRILOGY OF TERROR, TWILIGHT ZONE, OUTER LIMITS, TALES FROM THE CRYPT – but it’s one of the most difficult genres to do right. Low-budget productions often go this route since it means the director (or collection of directors) can focus on short, punchy stories instead of interminably stretching an idea well beyond its breaking point. But it also poses some immense storytelling challenges that, generally, young filmmakers with little experience have difficulty overcoming. Short films requires less of your audience in terms of attention, but their expectations are similarly much, much higher. Every shot and every line must have purpose, and the ending has to hit hard, or your piece will quickly vanish from memory.
And this is even MORE difficult in horror, which at its best tends to rely on mood and atmosphere, as well as developing characters that the audience can both relate to and care about. Unless you want to rely on macabre twists or tales of revenge – a hallmark of TALES FROM THE CRYPT – it can be very difficult ground to traverse, and even then you’re competing against the higher budgets, star power and production values of those that have come before.
BLOODY CUTS is the brainchild of Popply Quick Pictures, a small group of filmmakers that formed to create a film for the Sci-Fi 48hr Film Festival 2011, and decided to remain working together on “grass roots horror on a low budget”. The logical next step was a series of short, anthology-style films which emphasize mood, released over a period of months in 2011. I was naturally cautious – particularly as each of these films run only 3-5 minutes – going in, but I need not have worried. While there have been only two shorts released so far, these are not just low-budget experiments. These are truly something special.
LOCK UP is the first release, and is a strong introduction to the concept. The plot is simple – an employee at a security company is, as the title suggests, locking up for the night but encounters odd sounds as he makes his final rounds. The suspense builds through music, lighting, and cutting to surveillance footage of our unnamed protagonist making his way through the quiet hallways, almost out before realizing he’s forgotten his keys. Once in he’s faced with an unexpected, and terrifying, visitor.
In some ways it’s incredibly simplistic. We get just a glimpse of the character’s family life, but it’s enough to make him sympathetic. We get some great lighting and shadows as he goes from door to door, interrupted by appropriately creepy noises around him. Slow pans and dollies give the impression that someone is watching, as does the occasional view through the surveillance monitor. The final reveal is creepy, and it ends on a memorably terrifying note. It’s really a very tight package all around, and appropriately whets your appetite for more. While it works fine as a standalone story, it’s also effective as a calling card to the site. It definitely sends a message.
STITCHES is a bit longer, and therefore more closely resembles a compressed anthology segment in the slasher vein. In fact, while it’s impeccably filmed, and features a memorably demented antagonist, there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen before. Still, the story – a young babysitter begins to suspect there’s someone in the house after hearing odd noises upstairs, while the television notes that an escaped psychopath is on the loose – closely resembles a campfire story in the best possible sense. But there are enough original touches – particularly a great use of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in the background – that even non-fans of the slasher films will likely get a charge out of it.
It might be a little early to judge where the BLOODY CUTS collection of shorts are going, and if they can keep up this level of quality, but I can’t help but already anticipate what these folks could do with a longer run-time and larger budget. There’s plenty of talent on display, and a strong grasp of film-making techniques and skill which are sadly missing in most low-budget productions. The skills being developed here will serve them well on longer projects, and the work so far is head and shoulders above similar anthologies I’ve viewed. I’m hesitant to make any firm judgments – there’s still 11 segments to go – but for fans of horror, and developing talents in the genre, these are a must watch.
Check out all of the BLOODY CUTS shorts at http://www.bloodycuts.co.uk/
Join us this week for an interview with Ben Franklin of Popply Quick Pictures
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