Short films are not in short supply; good ones, however, are few and far between. At their most effective they are tightly produced pieces of cinema which bore an ideal or concept into your brain that sticks with you for time to come. In contrast, at their worst, I find them to be an awkward fumbling with an idea a creative team could not get funded nor let go.
‘Burn’, directed by Judson Vaughan is most definitely the former, delivering an almost flawlessly developed piece whose concept is both emotionally and visually shocking in equal abundance. Beyond its svelte 15 minute run time, it will play on your mind for some time – if you have children, longer. Consolidated of further because you will be compelled to give it an immediate second viewing!
The story opens as two expectant parents snuggle on the sofa. Disturbed by a police news report informing viewers about the latest lead they had on a violent and prolific serial killer their ‘moment’ together takes a rather solemn turn. As the mood darkens, so increases the emotive nature of the movie as we learn that the father, who is documenting his thoughts and snippets of his actions on video for his future son, is unlikely to be around to see his child grow up; his ‘sickness’ will make sure of that. The story continues shifting between tension building and plot reveal, all the while keeping your emotions in a constant state of confusion!
Burn works on the widely accepted concept that the most effective horrors are those which are the most plausible.
The characters are solid, but it’s what they represent that stuck with me. Whilst all the cast play their parts with conviction, the acting from Max Cavenham who plays the father steals the show, as the plot moves through its exposition his character shifts persona in a frighteningly organic way. Almost all of his scenes are told through handy cams in a relevant ‘found footage’ style. Outside of one more ‘typical’ horror scenes in the later part of the film, his character epitomises the short’s overarching theme of showing a loving face of evil. The films attention to detail is allowed to shine through in such scenes as the cinematography makes good use of space and lighting allow brooding shadows to emphasise the symbolism that his influence transcends his physical presence, whilst the darkened edges of his pale features reflect the taint of evil in his soul.
Either my brain has been working too hard recently, or this film is one hell of a mind-tease!
If thinking horror isn’t your thing, rest assured the third act is where all the more familiar horror action is at; made even more harrowing due to the presence of a child. Some will perhaps see these scenes as a departure from the subtle slow burn of the rest of the film, but for me, and my ‘unsubtle’ nature, a bit of torture in films never hurts! The combination of found footage and authentic effects allow the voyeuristic nature of the scenes to hit their mark. As such ‘Burn’s’ true ending is very satisfying indeed.
Overall, a perfectly grim and poignant story encompassed within an outstandingly well-crafted short film. I understand that ‘Burn’ recently screened at the Triple Six festival, with its thought provoking content and emotional impact I can see this being a favourite on this year’s festival circuit; and what a tough act it will be to follow in the running order!