Written and Directed by Luke Jeffery
Starring Magda Cassidy, Charlie Coldfield, Richard Feltham, Marie Cassidy, Phil Kingslan-John, Josh Fedrick, & Matthew Lawrenson
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Morris dancing hasn't been this dark and mysterious since...well...ever! In a seriously entertaining short film, filmmaker Luke Jeffery delivers a black comedy literally with bells on, with a story which will make you question your whole reality. Or at least your perception of minority dance troupes.
Magda Cassidy plays an enthusiastic morris dancer, who we meet at the beginning of Hell's Bells performing the slightly arcane moves associated with the style to a small but passionate group of onlookers. Across the way, she spots a bespectacled man (Charlie Coldfield), who seems less than enthused about the proceedings. We later learn that his presence at the event is not for the love of twirling hankies and trouser legs with bells attached. Indeed, he is there for an intervention at the behest of her parents (Richard Feltham and Marie Cassidy), because they believe their daughter has fallen victim to the sweet seductions of the morris dancing cult, who could just be the world's most influential secret society.
Like a condensed episode of Black Mirror, Jeffrey's film is pitch perfect when it comes to creating that dark tone out of something seemingly banal and slightly silly. The true genius of this can be found where audiences are not quite sure whether this is a comedy or a thriller. A myriad of sequences are used to obscure the viewer's understanding of the plot, like a drug haze, which permeates the short and makes for a formidable atmosphere to enjoy. Intense moments of dialogue between Cassidy and her interrogator are contrasted with jubilant morris dancing.
The script is tight and...ahem...well choreographed. Nothing in the film felt baggy or unnecessary, and the use of accordion music to sew the scenes together was a lovey touch. A particularly impressive scene is a Fight Club style sequence where a man with a green face and antlers (Phil Kingslan-John) squares off against Cassidy, who then begins a fight to the death. Or a chorus of chanting which is pretty unnerving.
If this is all sounding barmy and intriguing then that is exactly what you can expect from Hell's Bells. The filmmaking is tightly controlled and well executed, the performers all turn in solid and consistent portrayals of black comedy characters, and the intelligence of the storytelling prevents the film falling into cheap and farcical territory.
Watch the entire film as part of the UK Film Channel below...