Horror in Short: Andrew J. D. Robinson

It’s always interesting when an emerging filmmaker contacts us to share their work, so here – inside fifteen minutes for the lot – is a showreel from Andrew J. D. Robinson, which we are free to share. Making films this short is bound to be a challenge, but this is one of the ways in which short films hone the filmmaker’s craft, in my opinion, and why they’re worthwhile to both make and watch. What we have here is four films, each of which takes a subtly different approach. Some are stark and disturbing, some are more exploratory and surreal, but all of them indicate someone who is growing and developing, and I hope that Robinson is able to offer up more of his ideas on film in future. As calling cards, this reel shows that there’s promise there, and I look forward to seeing how that eye for style can be turned onto new narratives.

You can check out the showreel here.

As a genuinely unsettling introduction to Robinson’s work, Sightings (2017) plays with the idea of premonition – and it doesn’t pull any punches, opening with a stark reality – a girl’s corpse. Two women discuss a ‘strange daydream’ they’ve been having about their sister, Amy. Amy has gone missing, but they think they know what has happened to her, even if they’re afraid that it’s true. Then, the gruesome vision they both keep having turns out to be correct. But why has this happened? In what feels like the beginnings of a tantalising narrative, Sightings merges human interest with that most human of conclusions; it certainly grabbed my attention, and got under my skin – all in a couple of minutes. The harsh, atonal music fits particularly well here.

A Walk Home Alone picks up again on this sense of jeopardy to women – telling us about a presumed serial killer, who is possibly drowning his victims in the local river. Oblivious to this and to being observed by a mysterious stranger, a young woman remains glued to her phone, but for reasons which become apparent. The characterisation which A Walk Home Alone creates has been framed by the news report at the beginning; in that sense the film is ominous, with something looming over it. It does show its hand, though, and resolves probably as the audience might expect – albeit, it does so quietly.

Placebo, another incredibly short film of just a couple of minutes, takes a fairly simple idea – of dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, of obsession with celebrity – but pulls it into a surreal, rather jarring snapshot, managing to blend more of the unsettling special effects used in Sightings, but picking at issues of identity along the way. It puts me in mind of Excision, to an extent, chiefly for the way it packages surgery as something which looks grisly and stylish at the same time.

Finally, Something Scary takes the idea of a video game reviewer, live-streaming her first experiences with a brand new beta game – itself titled Something Scary. As she plays, we see through her eyes as well as seeing her reactions to the gameplay. This is a natural, plausible framework and yeah, it really works – this is by far my favourite film on the reel. I enjoy films where technology is rendered frightening, and it is here. The way that the film ends shows that moderation is good, too. All in all, this is a diverse reel of films, which tackles horror tropes and conjures up a few surprises, too.