Short review: “Tell”

I’m hooked on Short of the Week, and since I haven’t posted reviews in a while, I thought I’d take a quick look through their offerings and find a nice short film to review in an appropriately short format. I settled on Tell, a story inspired, I assume, by Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart. While I’ll refer anyone interested to Ivan Kander’s review of the film on SotW, I do have a few brief thoughts of my own.

The film is in many ways a triumph of independent horror. I don’t mean that it’s fantastic. It’s not an A+ film. But it is triumphant in that it does all the things supernatural horror should do: it sets up a supernatural proposition without fanfare or extraneous details; it effectively creates a grim, bleak atmosphere; and it features a storyline that is entirely dependent on an act of utter, awful violence, and it depicts that act, and its aftermath, without resorting to gratuitous gore. It also accomplishes these things in a (relatively) short time.

As Kander notes in his review, Tell isn’t without its problems. I agree in particular with his point about the female actors’ weak performances. The appearance of the police officer is a low point, both in terms of her terrible acting and the implausibility of a lone police officer searching a house without a warrant on the basis of a noise complaint. That little incongruity made me disengage from an otherwise well-conceived and well-executed film. Also–and here I disagree with Kander–the film’s use of sound and tritely-creepy music are less than stellar. What scares there are are telegraphed by the audio far in advance. I’d kill for a horror film without any background music or over-tuned audio effects.

Despite these issues, Tell is pretty good, and it’s a positive move overall for independent horror. Check it out.

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