Directed by Terrell Williams & Emily McDermott
Starring Terry King
Short Film Review by Owen Herman
A State of Purgatory (Dead Air) is the first in a series of short films from Effeno Films and is jointly written and directed by Terrell Williams and Emily McDermott. It is an absorbing short which, although it has a lot of horror elements, doesn’t perfectly fit the mould of genre or even general filmmaking. Instead of a normal narrative Dead Air is more a series of startling images that are meant to confuse, frighten, and intrigue you.
They depict a single man, played by Terry King, as he repeatedly experiences surreal and nightmarish moments. The film is purposefully unclear as to the true nature of these scenes, leaving you wondering whether it may have simply been a nightmare, a sinister reality, or even literal purgatory – the intermediate suffering between death and heaven (like an afterlife version of that bit between leaving the house and arriving at your holiday destination).
Although it throws up many questions, this is a short film that doesn’t provide answers, simply leaving it as an unsettling experience for the audience. However, this is not a criticism, as it allows you to draw your own conclusions from what you’ve seen. A State of Purgatory (Dead Air) does make you ponder, but is perhaps not as profoundly as the filmmakers would have wanted, as the serious thoughts about life after death that it hints at are mostly lost in the chaos.
The star of the show is the editing, done by co-writer and co-director Terrell Williams. It is fast paced and purposefully disorienting, making the best use of various types of cuts, heightening the sense of uncertainty and mystery. The music is also worth mentioning, providing a nice creepy atmosphere right from the start.
The filmmakers here have created a suitably creepily weird short movie that is different and manages to linger in your mind after its three-minute runtime is up. Dead Air has piqued my interest for the A State of Purgatory shorts, and I hope they continue and improve upon this promising and thoughtful start.