Screening as part of Cinepocalypse’s Shorts Block 1, Sarah Wisner and Sean Temple’s atmospheric short Water Horse would not go amiss amongst the recent trailers for The Lodge and Ari Aster’s Midsommar and Hereditary in both its visual style and sound design.
Exploiting the Academy ratio for all its claustrophobic worth and loaded with a screeching strings section soundtrack, the film follows a family of three on a secluded lakeside. Max (Charlotte Rea), Dylan (Darren Bailey) and their daughter Lily (Lilith Hurley) appear to be enjoying a peaceful getaway until an abandoned canoe washes up on shore. When Dylan goes to speak to the nearby neighbours about the canoe, Max senses something awry, and goes to investigate. What follows is certainly an unexpected and often maddening chain of events as Max quickly unravels and faces her fears.
Wisner and Temple make great use of montage and sound to reflect Max’s stress and confusion, their camera also often feels like an uninvited intruder during more static scenes, slowly zooming in on the family’s quality time like a predator waiting to strike. It evokes a style similar to horror films from the 1970s – its retro title card alluding to a clear inspiration, relying on a nightmarish quality to its images that make them quite unforgettable, and a plot for the audience to piece together without clear explanation.
With a run time under 8 minutes, Wisner and Temple are confident with their voice, utilising every frame to linger, watch and frighten. While its visual style could be pulled from a variety of existing references, the recent audience interest in ‘prestige/elevated horror’ that favours mystery and crisp, monumental horror images such as the ones depicted here make this directing duo and exciting team to watch.
Water Horse screened at Cinepocalypse as part of their Shorts Block 1: Shadows Within on Sunday June 16 and Monday June 17.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here