Today’s Short Shocker selection doesn’t exactly break new ground in terms of story — we’ve seen countless horror films about the dangers of conducting a séance or similar occult practices — but it more than makes up for this familiar theme with its intimate style and quickly-escalating suspense… as well as a concept the filmmakers claim to be based on a personal experience.
Filmmaking team Sophie Mair & Dan Gitsham have been involved in genre projects since 2007, and with their production outfit Sketchbook Pictures they’ve garnered multiple awards for their short films — most notably Ella, financed by the UK Film Council and starring Anthony Stewart Head of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Repo: The Genetic Opera (you can watch Ella today on popular horror streaming channel ALTER). The duo is also developing their feature debut Ginger with backing from the British Film Institute.
Mair & Gitsham, a couple in real life, took a more personal angle for the horror short Bill, which was inspired by their two young sons’ interaction with a “ghost,” whom the boys claimed to live in the ceiling of their home. This idea became the springboard for the simple but powerful premise of a grieving widow (Roxanna Wilk) who tries to communicate with her late husband through an occult ritual and pays a horrific price for her efforts.
Ditching wide shots, jump-scares and showy camera moves in favor of steady, intimate close-ups, the filmmakers generate immediate tension, further enhanced by a quietly creepy sound design — resulting in three minutes of escalating suspense and a truly unnerving payoff.
If you like Bill, be sure to drop by ALTER and check out Sketchbook Pictures’ other short films, including the aforementioned Ella.