In a wordless 14 minutes, director writer-director Drew Macdonald creates a tale of a young girl, Elki (Savannah Foran McDaniel), facing the adolescent monsters that are her peers, particularly the cruel Noelle (Jordan Small) — and a much more literal monster (Toby Barron, voiced by Tom Thum). McDaniel is definitely the star here, demonstrating a powerful performance and range with not a word of dialogue.
The other star is the cinematography (credit to Josh Zaini) — right from the very first second of the very first shot, Zaini creates well-composed images that could be stills in an art book. Light and shadow are used to effectively capture the raw and subtle emotions and development of McDaniel’s stunning performance.
We open with Elki on a bus, being tormented by Noelle, who as a final insult pushes a wad of gum into Elki’s hair. Elki cuts the was out with scissors and lies down in shame and fear, hiding in her seat until the driver, oblivious to her presence, parks the bus in a dark, abandoned bus yard, locking Elki in.
Well, not totally abandoned. There is a creepy, slimy goat-pig-bat monster stalking her, and she has to fight to get away.
This short film turns, and turns again, from subjugation, to hope, to terror, to … well, to an interesting finale.
McDaniel has won awards for this performance: Atlanta Horror Film Festival 2019: Festival Award Best Actress and the Australian Screen Industry Network Awards 2019: ASIN Award Tony Bonner Award for Best Emerging New Talent. The film itself has been nominated for numerous best short awards.
Rating: 9 out of 10