The Hidden Face (Het Verborgen gezicht)
Day two, third short film. I was already surprised at how much I was enjoying these shorts, so often I don't find that they have much depth to them, but these were proving me very much wrong, and going to show the great programming that had gone into the Dead by Dawn festival this year.
The Hidden Face is a very simple and yet highly effective tale that once again plays on the innocence of children to bring out some very creepy moments. IMDB tell the tale as:
Eight-year-old Lisa feels something is wrong with her grandma. Is grandma still grandma, or is she someone else? Eerie thriller shows the puzzling world through a child's eyes.
The power of this tale comes from whether or not the audience can stay with the child's narration and point of view, can the adult horror-bred audience stay inside this childcare mind and see the world through their eyes?
To achieve this you really do need a strong script, and this short film delivers that very well. I stayed in that child's mind through the entire film, understanding their point of view even through, what would seem like an adult, to be the most bizarrest of choices, and yet it works. I'll admit that at the end, when the more supernatural or perhaps imaginative element comes in, I wavered slightly, but there I remained. This viewpoint gives it an effectively unnerving quality, and brings the audience to the child with understanding and sympathy, and yet not quite feeling right about it all.
It's filmed in a hazy sort of dreamlike quality with a lot of attention paid to sets and props, all of this reinforces the believability of the child living with her Grandmother, and provides for some very good scenes. One of these is the tracking shot to the stairs. It's slowly done, creeping over the shoulder of the Grandmother and building the tension slowly to a revelation we all know is coming but we just don't want to see it. That's a scene that surely would rival many in full horror features.
The ending does turn a little away from that innocent feeling towards something a little darker, but the feelings and sympathies of the audience are still firmly placed with the child. Perhaps for me though, the ending detracted from the reality based unease that was throughout the film, the fantasy element that enters the tale is good, but I would have liked to have see it try and remain in that reality.
Well written and visualised, I did enjoy this, as did the audience.