Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
2001: a space odyssey (1968)
Two Days, One Night (2014)
The Road Within (2014)
Frances Ha (2012)
Jurassic Park (1993)
The Falling (2014)
1001 Grams (2014)
White Bird in a Blizzard (2014)
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014)
Mauvais Sang (1986)
Adult World (2013)
Anna Karenina (2012)
The Aviator (2004)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Generation War (2013)
Django Unchained (2012)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
6 years (2015)
Can’t Buy Me Love (1987)
We Are the Best! (2013)
Before We Go (2014)
Almost Famous (2000)
Short Term 12 (2013)
Peace, Love & Misunderstanding (2011)
Liberal Arts (2012)
North Sea Texas (2011)
The English Teacher (2013)
One Day (2011)
American Beauty (1999)
BEAST is a little gothic fairytale – the story of three generations of women dealing with the aftermath of divorce. When Alice’s mother, Grace, tells her that her father’s a “beast,” she begins to question who or what she really is.
We’re going for something along the lines of Pan’s Labyrinth meets Terms of Endearment – a sprinkling of magical realism mixed with a family drama.
We shot the bulk of the short film last year and headed back for one day in January. We were lucky enough to be supported by Creative England’s Emerging Talent scheme, which got us through the bulk of the shoot but now find ourselves in post production with our credit cards maxed out, desperate to finish our little movie.
In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer. Based on characters created by Joss Whedon, this fan-film imagines one night in the futuristic city of Haddyn and the 19-year-old Slayer, Melaka Fray. 100% of funds raised via Kickstarter were used to making this production possible.
In addition to important conversations about representation, something that’s stayed with me about Rogue One is that last scene. You know the one: Darth Vader just kind of walking down a hallway.
The entire story up to that point was one movie and it ended with a beautiful and heartbreaking scene on a beach. Then, the second movie began. We didn’t really need to see this addition to the story — we could have easily guessed what happened next — but Disney / Lucasfilm gave it to us anyway and I am so glad they did.
I mean, you kind of knew how that bit was going to end, one way or the other, and yet it was still so enjoyable and, I think, legitimately scary. Why?
It’s a short horror film.
I think a lot about how many of the best movies are camouflaged genre films and I’m sure I’ve written some way-too-long posts on Facebook about it more than once, but let me start with a different point about that.
Jurassic Park. Terminator (and to be fair, T2 as well). Both great movies. Something that always strikes me about the recent sequels / soft reboots / whatever… is that they forget the originals were at their heart, horror films — or at least relied heavily on horror tropes — borrowing stylistically and thematically.
I mean, okay, I’m no horror or genre movie expert, but if I remember correctly, as a kid, Terminator was always in the “horror” section of the video store.
Point is, Jurassic Park even has campy jump-scares.
And even though the T-Rex runs after the heroes, the protagonists are in a Jeep — so the speed is relative… and it’s effectively a nightmare hallway scene, where they can’t quite seem to get away as the killer slowly gains on them (more on that concept later). They don’t shy away from it at all.
Jurassic World? Terminator Genisys? They’re action movies. They traded in these kind of beautiful tension-building scenes borrowed from genre movies for robot explosions and a T-Rex fighting a genetically engineered super raptor. They abandoned telling the story well — in other words, matching how the story is told (form) to what the story is about (function) in favor of trying to make “a wild ride” or whatever.
Back to Rogue One. That last scene is one of the only times I’ve ever found Darth Vader legitimately scary on screen (O.K. maybe the ending of Empire — but not like this). I was so impressed with this scene. It could have easily gone the way of the prequels — Vader boomeranging his lightsaber all over the place, force-leaping half a mile, performing needless pirouettes, but instead, he just walks forward.
Which — kind of unrelated — is tonally similar to what I loved about the 2003 Clone Wars animated series. General Grievous, ironically unlike the weird coughing cartoon character we got in the movie, was a badass killer. He was legitimately scary. And the way they put together the scenes that centered him as a villain really emphasized that. They borrowed tropes and stylistic elements from horror.
Vader doesn’t move fast because he doesn’t need to (of course, canonically he can’t really). He just plods forward, methodically killing everyone in his path. Tell me you don’t see the T-800 in that. Or Jason. Or Michael Myers. I love it.
The scene is a perfect, self-contained piece of art. The protagonist has a clearly defined goal with an item (a classic McGuffin) tied to that goal. That one rebel needs to get the disc down the hallway and through the door, to safety.
Here’s what makes it a short horror film:
The door gets stuck. The lights go out. Smoke and mist rises. The antagonist — a killer villain — appears with a goal in antithesis to the protagonist’s. Between the two, there’s a group of protectors. They fight, the protagonist and his allies try everything they can to stop or escape the villain and achieve their goal until, as we build to the climax, a dramatic question becomes clear. Will the protagonist sacrifice his life to achieve his goal, or will he succumb to fear allowing the villain to prevail? He pushes the disc through the crack in the door, he tells his last ally to run — to carry on without him — and he sacrifices himself for the greater good.
Again, this scene has a really simple yet elegant structure, executed flawlessly. Protagonist wants to deliver the disc to safety: Thesis. Antagonist wants to prevent the delivery of the disc: Antithesis. Despite complications, obstacles, and ultimate sacrifice, the disc is moved to safety: Synthesis.
The protagonist achieves his goal, though not how he wanted to. Strengthening that journey, he had to sacrifice what he wanted (personal survival) to achieve what was needed (survival of the disc and therefore, the group).
We knew that would be the conclusion all along because we’ve seen A New Hope, but I think it’s still compelling because it’s so perfectly structured and so well executed — the form of the scene perfectly matching the function.
Even better, this scene is thematically a microcosm of the entire story that just came before it.
Using horror tropes and borrowing from that genre works so perfectly in this scene because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a survival horror. The protagonist in this scene is stuck in a confined space, trying to escape while being hunted by a supernatural predator. What about that doesn’t lend itself to horror?
More major releases should embrace this philosophy. Hollywood needs to respect the intelligence of audiences a little more and stop jamming stories into whatever genre they’re determined to make. Instead, let the story guide stylistic choices. They shouldn’t be at odds; they should reinforce each other. That’s when a movie becomes art.
Let’s circle back to that idea about the slowly advancing killer. This may deserve it’s own article, but personally, I can’t separate these ideas.
The more I thought about this scene, the more I also got to thinking about Vader in this scene and why that slow, plodding advance is such a scary thing as well as why it ends up in so many horror movies. I mean, aside from how common it is in the history of genre movies, one of the most acclaimed indie movies of the last few years is a horror called It Follows where the whole premise and plot boils down to that one thing: a slow but endlessly advancing death.
I remembered something I read online a while back about human beings (originally mentioned in the context of how human beings usually portray ourselves in Sci-fi). Here are some screenshots of those posts…
(If you wrote any of this and would like credit, let me know. I haven’t been able to find primary sources.)
Whoever thought up that last scene must have known about these ideas. And much like the scene itself is a microcosm of the movie, the choices made in regard to how Vader attacks his enemies are a microcosm of what makes the scene beautiful. The writers didn’t make the flashy choice, or the bigger, badder, more epic choice. They made the right artistic choice. They made the human choice.
So, in addition to everything else, why is that short film so good and so scary? I think it’s because this method of hunting is distinctly human. For all his force powers, the scariest thing about Darth Vader in that scene is that he just. Keeps. Coming.