Directed by: #JudsonVaughan
A grim and sickening psychological horror, #Burn is a well-crafted and engaging short from Dragon Egg Media. The opening montage plays on some familiar horror tropes as we watch footage, circa 1960, of small children merrily playing with their parents and grandparents at some kind of family party. Any horror that involves children is usually pretty powerful in its effect on an audience so I was keen to see where this would go.
Pete, expectant Dad to little Charlie, is pottering about his home, looking into his camera. He looks normal: average, height, weight and looks, but is definitely odd: he chooses to continue listening to a news report on the kidnap and disappearance of two men despite his pregnant wife, Lou’s protests; he pokes fun at her size but in that was-he-joking-or-was-he-serious kind of way; and in switching away from the news report, he decides on a horror film instead. None of this is enough to set the flags fully waving, but we know there’s something up here and Cavenham plays this section well as we try to work this man out. He disappears off, leaving Lou with the horror film, to record a video diary for his unborn son Charlie. He tells Charlie he is sick – we imagine a poignant tragedy now but we get no details. He mentions some troubles he went through as a young man, the moment he met Lou and the ‘profound’ moment when he realised his true purpose in life. He encourages Charlie to let his ‘unique flame burn’ when he grows up, all the while, the monologue interrupted by a well-shot montage of a car travelling away from a town, into the country, towards an old house and then a fast paced shadow and light display as armed police burst in.
In a flashforward, a voiceover tells us Pete has been convicted of rape, torture and murder, and now a distraught Lou and little Charlie are all alone, a few years on, leaving their home as their neighbours continue to jeer on the sidelines. Even in the new place their troubles follow them as Lou is recognised and women ask how she could have been blind to what her husband was doing. Whilst unpacking one of Pete’s video diary discs emerges and Lou cries as she watches her husband on screen. The following day, his birthday, Charlie finds another one in the back of a photo frame and as he presses play the full, sinister horror pf his parents’ crimes unfolds before his eyes.
The sequencing in the film is thoughtful, with the misdirection early on believable enough to pull the audience along and into the grim realisation at the end. Emma Kelly is convincing as the unknowing wife while Cavenham’s psychotic video footage performances continue to haunt after the film has ended. It is not everyday you find a short which will pack a punch in such a way and whilst the subject matter feels extreme and almost a little melodramatic in places, @BurnShortFilm achieves what it sets out to do – half an hour on and I still feel a little sick!