Crivens, it *has* been a while since I updated this thing, hasn't it? Entirely too much of a while, in fact. So, what better way to break my prolonged radio ("journal") silence than with a series of posts inviting you to chill your soups with some splendidly spooky short films? Hey, it's nearly Hallowe'en.
I've been wanting to write something along these lines for a while now, actually. I'm quite a fan of horror movies (and, indeed, horror TV shows and horror comics and horror novelty door hangers, etc), and there are numerous fabulous feature-length fright-fests rightly famed for their fearful phantasmagoria. Alien. Ring. Psycho. Ghostwatch. Evil Dead 2. The Haunting. (No, not the 1999 version. Are you looking for a thwack on the conk, or what?) I love all these flicks and many more besides, yet there's never been a feature-length horror film that's left me with the jittering ab-dabs like the bite-size chunks of eerie evilness that I shall shortly be recommending to you. (Well, except for Ghostwatch, especially on the night it was originally broadcast ostensibly live and for real in 1992. The Paranormal Activity demon has got nothing on Mr Pipes.)
The thing is, it's difficult to maintain a tense, scary atmosphere over the course of 90+ minutes, and even the most ingeniously sinister ideas can only be stretched so far before they start to sag somewhat. But short horror films, at their best, are like little concentrated doses of chill. They give movie-makers the chance to focus on a single, unsettling concept and develop it to its natural (or more probably unnatural, hurdy-ho) and frightening conclusion with considerably less risk of the premise wearing thin. Brief running times promote efficiency of storytelling and allow skilled directors to build tension without respite; as such, short horror films have the capacity to be altogether more strange and disturbing than their feature-length counterparts. And so it is with the four I'd like to draw your attention to.
Short films never get the same sort of exposure as big-budget movies, so it's quite likely you won't have seen or even heard of these before. They're seldom (if ever) shown on TV, they're not (to my knowledge) available to buy in any format, they don't have fan clubs or websites devoted to their existence, and they will never feature in a TV clip show of The Top 100 Scariest Moments We've Now Totally Ruined For Everyone because they don't star anybody famous. But trust me, they're terrific, and really jolly creepy, and they deserve a wider audience. So dim the lights, adjust the volume on your monitor to a level that won't be drowned out by squeaks of terror, and prepare to have all your hairs raised clean off. Oh yes.La Cabina
The first film in our quartet of queasing quakery is also the longest, at a little under 35 minutes. It's a Spanish production from 1972, directed by Antonio Mercero, and it's a splendid example of how to inexorably establish an atmosphere of creeping dread, not least because it begins in such a deceptively light-hearted fashion. Indeed, for the first 15 minutes or so you'd be forgiven for thinking you were watching some sort of quirky (albeit slightly twisted) comedy. Stick with it, however, and things soon develop in decidedly less amusing directions. To say any more would be to spoil things, so I shall simply invite you to click on this link...La Cabina
...and watch the story unfold. Rod Serling would be proud, and also unnerved.
(A brief aside: La Cabina does have some dialogue in its first half and, unsurprisingly, it's all in Spanish. But it really doesn't matter if you don't speak the language; the visuals tell the story all by themselves, and you'll have no trouble understanding what's happening irrespective of whether you know precisely what everyone's saying. (Tellingly, the central character has barely any dialogue at all.) But if you're really keen to know what's being said, a version with English subtitles is also available, in three parts. See below.)Part 1Part 2Part 3
There will be further things to heebie your jeebies in the coming days. For now, viewers good night. IF YOU CAN. No, hang on.