“Run” (dir. Mat Johns, 2012, 6:45)
In an interview with the website Zombie Hamster, Manchester micro-budget filmmaker Mat Johns described his artistic goals: “I always try and leave a mark with my films, especially if it can show the brighter side of life, then I like to flip it and show the dirty bits that are all rotten and covered in blood. I’ve been at a lot of screenings of my shorts, and it’s always amazing when you hear people gasp while they watch.” Johns’ 2012 short “Run” was conceived, shot, and then exhibited in a four-day marathon (for Filmonik’s “Kino Kabaret”), and it’s definitely a gasp-inducer. It’s a travelogue with a messy endpoint, following a backpack-toting American tourist named Sam (played by Joseph Stacey) as he dictates a letter home to his mother in his head while hiking around the U.K. The story bears some similarities to Antonio Campos’ recent film Simon Killer, which is also about an unassuming traveler who has a troubled past and a dark side; thematically, “Run” recalls Bong Joon-ho’s Mother, in that it considers the culpability parents have for the actions of an unstable child.
Mainly, “Run” illustrates how framing and structure matter to a horror film. Reduced strictly to its plot, the short shows Sam walking around, meeting a pleasant young couple named Stephanie (Gabi Herrett) and Simon (John Grey), accepting their offer of hospitality, and then acting on his sickest impulses toward them. It’s harrowing and repulsive, and would be pretty much just raw exploitation without the epistolary angle and the non-chronological approach. By jumping back and forth between Sam’s dinner with his new friends and their ultimate fate—and by letting viewers hear how Sam describes his adventures to his mother—Johns pulls viewers into the mind of a psychopath, while asking them feel his victims’ pain as well. The multiple points of empathy make “Run” even more upsetting.
“Return To Glennascaul” (dir. Hilton Edwards, 1953, 22:22)
Irish actor and theatrical impresario Hilton Edwards is credited with writing and directing the Oscar-nominated 1953 two-reeler “Return To Glennascaul,” but the dominant presence in the film is Orson Welles. Not only does Welles narrate “Return To Glennascaul,” and appear as himself in a framing device that establishes the story as something Welles heard from a stranded motorist while he was in Ireland filming Othello (with Edwards, who played Brabantio), but the entire style of the short seems influenced by Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, and The Lady From Shanghai. The long shadows and atmospheric sound of “Return To Glennascaul” are Welles staples, which Edwards applies to a spooky tale about the gentlemanly Sean Merriman (Michael Laurence), who helps two stranded ladies get back to their drafty mansion and then accepts their offer of a drink by the fire, only to discover later that this mansion is actually up for sale, and the ladies have been dead for years.
Edwards doesn’t play the “they were ghosts all along” twist for shock, but rather dwells on the eeriness of it all, along with the sense of loss and longing when Merriman returns to the mansion and hears the women whispering to him, beckoning him to stay. Meanwhile, Welles serves as reassuring presence and comic relief, taking over the story from time to time with his usual fast-paced, jovial patter and wry jokes. (When he finds Merriman standing next to a broken-down car, Welles cracks, “I’ve had trouble with my distributor, too.”) The signature on “Return To Glennascaul” is Edwards’, but in almost every way, the film is typical Welles: overtly, unapologetically theatrical, yet fiendishly effective.