Screened as part of this year’s virtual Chattanooga Film Festival in their ‘Dangerous Visions’ shorts block, Sean Temple and Sarah Wisner’s Thorns is a consistent and stylish delivery of the up-and-coming filmmakers’ penchant for retro horror stylings with a modern twist.
The short centres on Gwen and Jade—two young women on an undisclosed road trip, when the pair find themselves having to stop at a seedy motel for a nights layover. Already unsettled by its shady exterior and more so by the creepy guy who leaves a single rose on their windshield, matters are made worse when someone phones their room to let them know of recent break-ins that have been tormenting motel guests.
Needless to say, everything is not what it seems and this Vacancy-esque motel thriller sees two women turn the tables on a traditional horror set-up —women alone as a predator stalks them— to see the women fight back in a moment of smart self awareness in the films final moments.
Temple and Wisner have always been placing women at the forefront of their short films and its yet again a joy to see them do it here. Thorns plays with the idea of the roadside voyeur (creepy men in motels fill horror from Psycho to the less-scary Bad Times at the El Royale), a feeling of women being watched and the camera gazing at those women controlling their view. As with all of their work thus far, Temple and Wisner switch that vision to one where the women in the frame are self-aware enough to control that gaze themselves— in this short, Gwen and Jade are ultimately even aware of common horror devices used to create scares, which is a pretty meta inclusion in a six minute short.
The film is dabbled with a love of old horror from the 70s and 80s with its jarring score and reddened colour grading, Thorns has all the visual makings of one of those forgotten-about slasher movies originally too dim to see clearly, but are now being lovingly restored by small genre distributors for people to discover once more. Its another sharp and smart short from one of the most promising genre duos emerging right now, and cuts off at the exact moment to leave you wanting more.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloë (she/her) 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. 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