An Evening with My Comatose Mother (2011)
Running Time: 33 minutes
Director: Jonathan Martin
Writer: Jonathan Martin
Starring: Wendy Macy, Michele Turner Wilson, Missy Hill
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
I recently viewed Jonathan Martin’s short horror film An Evening With my Comatose Mother and suddenly it dawned on Me just how great short films can actually be. Normally I watch short films that are barely five minutes, however Martin’s film is somewhere in-between a short film and a feature length and what I found I learnt from this is that the horror market is awash with some utter tosh these days. Martin has managed to create something truly special, and in the short running time of half an hour, he shows us more horror and creates more atmosphere and dread than half of the feature length movies that clog up their running time with unnecessary filler. Horror directors take note; often it is not the running time that is the selling point, more the actual content. Watching this film it was so refreshing to see a director simply ‘get down to it’. No messing about, we head straight into the story and in no time at all we are finished, feeling a little unsettled and, even almost a week later, images of the film still play on my mind. What’s it about? Well, as Martin did so well with his short film, let’s get to it!
The actual plot is as basic as they come, and I mean this in a good way. The gorgeous Wendy Macy plays Dorothy, a young attractive girl who heads over to the Poe’s house on Halloween night to ‘house-sit’ while Alice (Michele Turner Wilson) and Russell (Rick Macy) head out to a party. Whilst being given the tour of the large and stylish house, Dorothy is introduced to the Poe’s Mother who is in a coma. Lying in her bed she is a little creepy to look at, but not half as creepy as the freakish looking dolls that surround her bed, one in particular, a clown with eyes that look nightmarishly real. See, within two minutes Martin has got you hooked, got you on edge and a little uneasy about where this film will go. You can pretty much guess, but it’s the way in which it is delivered to the audience that has this neat little horror stand out as one of the finest examples of good old fashioned horror. Whether intended or not, this film harks back to the good old days of 80’s horror where things were kept simple, for the most part, and I’m sure I remember dolls being used an awful lot more back then, and even the setting of the house and the fact it is on Halloween night harks back to horrors more ‘fun’ era where things didn’t always have to be making some sort of statement. The opening credits will set the mood nicely as they are quite freaky and look nothing like you would have seen in today’s horror films. Once the film gets going, the fun begins.
Nothing is wasted here, there are lingering shots at times, but they are expertly timed as to not over-do the proceedings. What really impressed me is Martin’s eye for keeping you interested with a simple trick of how he cuts scenes together. One of my favourites is when Dorothy arrives at the Poe’s house after the opening credits: a black screen is met with knocking on a door and then we realise the black screen is actually the front door as it opens to reveal a sexy Dorothy in what almost looks like a school outfit (hooray!) There is also clever camera angles used throughout the film, in fact, the camera work, at times, is exceptional and you get a real sense of excitement by it because it keeps you interested in what Martin will come up with next. Over and over again the director uses a flare and visual style that is both familiar and also very original and at times, hypnotic. Another wonderful cut scene is where suddenly the camera appears in the fridge as Dorothy opens the fridge door. She has an evening planned with her boyfriend and, whilst calling him, we are reminded that this is essentially a modern horror as the boyfriend appears on the phone as Jack Sparrow! Dorothy’s evening is ruined as her boyfriend decides to break up with he over the phone (what an idiot) and then Dorothy’s night goes from bad to worse…
The house is a little sinister as it is, with Halloween pumpkins scattered about and bizarre Christmas style lights on the stairs banister, but a storm is brewing and suddenly the lights go out, an eerie mist collects outside and there is someone banging on the front door. To make matters worse, it would appear that the creepy Clown doll’s eyes are following Dorothy, and it could well be that the doll itself is following her around the house. With the lights out, Martin is able to use his camera and lighting wizardry to full effect as suddenly the lights on the banisters become the only lighting in the house, apart from a cold and creepy blue coming from outside. The boy at the door reminded me a bit of the creepy dancing boy in Insidious, and offers up the films first true scare which is handled with incredible accuracy and timing. It is not often I jump at horrors these days, but I will gladly admit to jumping here! The whole atmosphere created by the lighting, the Halloween decorations, the creepy boy, the mist, the fact there is a spooky old woman in bed upstairs and the thought that this clown doll may actually be alive, mixed with a rather fine performance by Wendy Macy and a continual build of eerie music and haunting whispers, plus the superb camera work all mount to a superb final act of the short film and here is where Martin really lets rip!
Dorothy gets her chance to have a go back at the mounting tension, screaming “Let’s do this!!” as she prepares to battle the freaky clown with horrific eyes and pointy teeth. Dorothy even gets the chance to scream out a bizarre line in total anger “Suck my dick!!” she bellows at one point, a clear indication by the way in which it is delivered that Martin DOES want us to have fun here. Yes, he has conjured up some wonderful scares, superb claustrophobic tension, but with certain moments of mild comedy, it is clear the main attraction is to actually ENJOY being scared. It won’t hurt to explain where the film leads, without spoiling what actually happens, as the trailer makes it very clear where this film goes. Yes, the Mother wakes up and, while nowhere near as freaky or scary as the Clown doll, she does have her moments. My main gripe with this old hag is her laugh, it is freaky to begin with, but it is over used, but this is a minor complaint in a film which is as close to flawless as most modern horrors can get. Nursery rhymes are also thrown into the mix to creep us out, why is it that songs we learn as children which are supposed to bring comfort and joy bring so much dread and fear as we get older! Anyway, the story frantically comes to an end in superb style, Dorothy continues to look more gorgeous as the film goes on, the old comatose battle axe has some truly wonderful moments including crawling on the ceiling and spewing blood over poor Dorothy, she does have a rather horrible voice too, but she does enjoy laughing a lot.
What really truly impressed me here though, was the top quality production of the film. The film itself is superb, but for a short film by a director only on his second outing, this looks like it’s been directed by someone who has been around for years. There is a huge amount of talent on offer here, a keen and enthusiastic eye for today’s horror market, and also a respect for the horrors of old. This film does not feel like a director finding his way in a saturated market, this is a director with a wealth of talent and the confidence to use it and make his mark. Remember the name Jonathan Martin, I will be very surprised if we do not see this director head into feature lengths films and deliver a true classic. For now though, keep an eye out for this superb short film, a must for all horror fans!