Directed by David Bradburn
Starring Christian Litke and Kiea Houseton
Short Film Review by Daniel Reason
The torture scene has become a regular occurrence in modern action films, and in this short film, Before You Woke, director David Bradburn brings his own interpretation and style into something that, arguably, doesn’t have the same amount of impact today as it did 20 years ago, due to the modern audience becoming familiar with these types of scenes.
The manner of how it begins is very discouraging through the way the opening credits are edited, which creates quite a bad first impression. It is unbelievably difficult to read the names of the cast and crew, consequently meaning that none of those aforementioned people get their moment of recognition. While the fast editing does suit the overall pacing, the way these credits were created could have been handled a lot better.
Clocking in at around 4 minutes long, Bradburn throws you right into the action, which is both a strength and detriment. It is very well paced, so before you know it, the credits start to roll. The pacing is demonstrated through the soundtrack which accompanies each specific scene magnificently and truly adds some more excitement. Unfortunately, it is because of the pacing and eagerness to get the story going, that we are given no time to understand what is happening nor have the ability to relate to/learn about either character. After re-watching it several times, there really isn’t much more to get out of it – it tells a very simple story and does it rather conventionally.
Despite this, Bradburn is able to generate some tension through the slow movement of shots and nervousness in Kiea Houseton’s un-named character. The dialogue is quite basic and leaves it unclear as to who is the “protagonist”. With our prior expectations, we would believe that Christian Litke’s character, also un-named, is the antagonist and that Houseton is the protagonist, but it is left unclear as to if this is really the case. It is suggested that the pair have had some previous experience with one another, but it isn’t determined nor does it explain the purpose for her character’s torture.
As previously stated, due to the short run time, enough time isn’t given to develop either character and this is something that greatly affects specific moments. In those moments, it is intended that we should feel sympathetic for Houseton’s character, but without the full story and lack of knowledge about her, it feels a little un-natural to not care for someone who is being/has been in that situation. In many ways, this whole film feels like a single scene from another. If there was more information and these characters before and after the event, then it would most certainly benefit.
Despite Bradburn’s best attempts to create tension and suspense through his long takes, and the excellent synth-soundtrack, the inability to care about the story and characters make this feel rather forgettable.