Friday Horror Short #13, The Quiet

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Summary: A short film playing off the concept of vulnerability as a young female with hearing issues is freaked out by an encounter while walking home.

BLOT: (29 Aug 2014 - 09:16:23 PM)

Friday Horror Short #13, The Quiet

Way back in my last Friday Horror Short, I mentioned the single-female-in-an-apartment as a common metaphor for vulnerability and tension, and so I thought as I bring back the old FHS for another twelve or so shorts, I might try and focus on those twin concepts: how some horror shorts shortcut building up a creature by breaking down the protagonist into archetypal victims.

In I'm With Them's "The Quiet", we see both elements played off by the protagonist dealing with being deaf in one ear and having severely limited hearing in another as she navigates some tricky situation where even a person with full hearing would be missing some vital cues. After being taunted by classmates on the bus, Alice gets off without getting her phone. This leaves her unsure whether her mom is coming to get her. Setting off alone, she is soon confronted by a blue van and an unknown occupant inside who seems to be watching her. After the van drives off, she starts home again, only to see the van simply stopped further down the road. Running into the woods, she has her hearing aid ripped off, leaving her almost entirely deaf and trying to avoid being captured.

I'm picking this one because it represents so well how a short horror film can skip certain elements of establishing the monster by establishing built-in weaknesses in the protagonist [note, it is described as being part of the "Vulnerable Female" trilogy, which makes me wryly chuckle]. It does this part well, though almost entirely by playing off built-in sentiments. You see a bullied—and possibly neglected—Alice cope with her issues while initially retaining an outwardly cool demeanor, forcing a contrast to her on-display vulnerability. A distinction that crumbles as she feels her situation grow more dire. She knows that she could just walk past the van but cannot bring herself to do it. This establishes doubt in the viewer's mind that was not there before. Suddenly, the van represents conflict. If it contains a determined rapist or a child-murderer, her hearing issues would not very much matter, but since we are watching her stripped away layer by layer—first the loss of her bullying but watchful classmates, then her cell phone, and eventually her hearing aid—we buy into her notion of confrontation. As she enters into the woods, surely she knows the quickest way home, but we buy into her being disoriented and directionless. She is our guide in this film, and our guide grows increasingly flawed.

It loses some traction by a combination of a weak twist—mean-spirited at best, and easily guessable, at least for me—and a lackluster ending which mistakenly tries to pop the already deflated tension bubble with a surprise that is more a headscratcher than anything; but it does have the weird vignettes involving a doll and the phrase, "I will always love you," and the act of hair cutting that leads to the swap in the speaker's voice from female to male. Perhaps a symbol of a loss of innocence, or maybe of a loss of decorum. These odd shots essentially give the film meat it might have otherwise lacked, and make it through without any easy throwaway explanation.

Friday Horror Short


Written by Doug Bolden

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