Short Film

Foxglove (Short)

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In a remote area of Western Ireland, an engineer lives with his young daughter. He is there to continue work on a wind turbine project. The engineer decides to sign off on building more of these turbines, despite concerns of the environmental impacts. Soon after, it becomes clear that he and his daughter are being targeted by something ancient, and it is not pleased by the changes to its land.

I was lucky enough to get to view this short by director Brian Deane after discussing his previous short, Blight. While the two shorts are very different in theme and plot, they are both frightening tales. Foxglove is a chilling story set in modern times. What I really love about the plot is that it takes a modern concept like finding renewable energy and adds in elements of ancient folklore. Most of the folklore that is referenced in this short comes from old stories about fairy folk and fairy rings. Even today, folklore is a part of Irish tradition. The film made the combination of these two opposing aspects meld together to create a fascinating plot. While I will spare specific details, I will say the end of this short film made my jaw drop in the best way possible. It was simple, yet shockingly effective.

The acting in this short was also quite powerful. Bob Kelly (1916 Seachtar Dearmadta) played Dave, the engineer father. It is clear that Kelly’s character is concerned about the environmental impact of his wind turbine project, but circumstances are keeping him from taking the time to make sure it is safe for the environment. When his actions lead his family into darkness, the desperation that a father feels when protecting his child comes across as intense and genuine. Not only did Kelly star in this short, but he wrote it as well.

Foxglove makes excellent use of “unseen” characters. Throughout the story you hear the fairy folk speaking to Roisin, the young daughter. While we cannot understand what they are saying, or see them, Roisin clearly does. It almost makes it even more menacing not to see the very thing you are supposed to be afraid of. On the other hand, the wind turbines are also a bit of an unseen character. The turbines are shown from time to time, but even when they are not on screen you can hear them around the house. During the final moments of the short, the sounds from the wind turbines act as a score. It is a very effective approach that adds to the intensity of the last few moments.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: what makes a short successful for me is that it works in the small run time it has, but it leaves me wanting more. This is a short I can easily see becoming a feature length film. What I would especially love to see is the plot going deeper into the ancient folklore surrounding the fairy folk. Luckily, I knew a bit about the stories from other films and books, but some viewers might not be as aware. When this short becomes available online, or if it is showing at a festival near you, run, don’t walk, to see it. Foxglove is a chilling story that brings the dark side of fairy tales into the modern age.

OVERALL RATING: 5/5 (short film scale)

The Secret of 40 (Short)

Josh (Julian de la Celle) recently lost his mother in a tragic accident. Despite his efforts to move on and continue living a normal life, he can’t seem to let go of his mother. In a desperate attempt to communicate with her one last time Josh decides to perform a ritual that is supposed to reach her from beyond the grave. Unfortunately, his mother wasn’t the only one that heard the ritual, and now Josh may have unleashed something more sinister than he ever intended.

There are so many aspects of The Secret of 40 that make it a great short. Part of what makes it stand out from other short horror films is the format it was shown on. The Secret of 40 was the very first horror film to be shown on the Barco Escape three-screen experience. When I saw the film I saw it along with a series of other shorts, each one taking a different approach to utilizing the three screens (some more successfully than others). The Secret of 40 used the screens in a few different ways that worked exceedingly well; they used it to show the present and a flashback scene at once, they used it to do a panoramic shot circling through a room, and they used it to have small details hidden in plain sight but in an area you may not initially notice. This added a level of interest to the short that you wouldn’t get with any other horror film. Not only were you watching a great film, but you got to have a unique experience while watching it in Barco Escape.

The idea of someone wanting to contact a loved one who has passed away is something we have seen before in other films. What makes The Secret of 40 different is the method in which the contact is initiated. In most films you get the typical Ouija board or seance. These filmmakers did their homework and gave the audience something they haven’t seen before. The team that created The Secret of 40 also did a great job setting up the scary moments. In some cases they would set up a scare you knew was coming, but then left it until you had forgotten about it only to surprise you with a good jump. Other times, they took an already frightening scene and pushed it just a bit further, making the audience gasp.

All around the cast of this film did a great job, but there were two stand out performances. The first one is obviously Julian de la Celle (The Fosters, Heroes) who plays Josh. What made his performance great is the way he portrayed the grief Josh goes through after losing his mother. At first he appears foggy and detached, like many people who lose loved ones do when they are in mourning, but still trying to get through each day. Then, once the idea clicks in his head that he needs to try contact his mother, de la Celle expertly shows Josh’s desperation to reach that goal. The second performance that stood out to me came from Robert Rusler (Weird Science, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge) as Josh’s father. In the scene after Josh performs the ritual, Rusler masterfully portrays a combination of fatherly concern for his son and confusion as to what Josh has been up to.

This short worked not only because it had a compelling story and great acting, but also because it leaves the possibility to expand the story. The Secret of 40 ended in such a way that works well for a short, while also leaving room for the potential to add another hour of footage. The only aspect of this short that I could potentially dock points for is the simple fact that we barely get to see the evil entity. You only really saw it in brief glimpses. That being said, I believe that also works in the filmmakers’ favor because it leaves you wanting more. The Secret of 40 is a deeply unsettling film that will send chills down your spine. I truly hope that it can be made into a feature length film.

OVERALL RATING: 4.75/5 (short film scale)