Directed by: #MercedElizondo
Written by: Merced Elizondo
To Trust is to Risk is the strapline for this indie short film Just Lie Here from writer/director Merced Elizondo and it’s a movie where the risks pay off. Full of intense drama and heightened suspense, audiences may very well never use AirBnB again!
Trey Peyton plays Jude, a musician who has paid online to stay at the lovely home of Linda (April Hartman) and Thomas Clarke (Christopher Phipps). After awkward introductions are made by the couple, apologising for not being there when Jude checked in the night before, the trio go about an uneasy yet hospitable repartee and the hosts attempt to ensure a 5-star review is garnered by making Jude as comfortable as possible.
During a particularly cringeworthy lunch, Jude questions the married couple about their choice to open their home to strangers, and therefore risks.
To say much more about the plot of Just Lie Here would be to spoil it but suffice to say this is a commendable and engaging piece of cinematic storytelling. Full of modern relevance and subtle threat, Elizondo knows how to filter his audience through a series of #filmmaking nuances so that our expectations are never met - thankfully. It is unpredictable and full of relentless anxiety, the audience probably haven’t panicked this much since booking a city break for three nights for less than £100 in South East London!
Peyton is the perfect picture of weirdo, a casually charming man whose not-that-subtle hints that he’s the potential risk in the Clarke’s home is terrifically balanced - not too cartoonish and not so malicious we avoid him entirely. In fact, his turn is the most compelling aspect of Just Lie Here, similar to other onscreen incarnations of the threatening stranger or the psycho-in-waiting. Some of the dialogue with Phipps and Hartman is a little strained at times, as if nervous about facilitating a storyline reveal rather than the characters, however this is minimal.
By drawing on themes of isolation, the digital unknown, and the family home, the #filmmakers are deftly playing with #horror themes but in a way in which the audience is still being grounded by the affability of the characters and mise en scéne. Much like Ari Aster’s Midsommar, this is a daytime piece whereby viewers are unsure of the threat level because they can see everything. We identify with the Linda and Thomas and share their worried looks at each other whilst unsure whether we can even trust them! It is well handled #thriller material and consistently nerve wracking.
Short filmmakers are often champions of the scary story because the folklore narratives work well within a shorter structure. Terrifying and tiny, you could say. With Merced Elizondo's #shortfilm Just Lie Here, we are not getting the squalid box room though. This feels like we are getting a full-blown horror flick for the price of a feature, complete with all the amenities you could ask for. Just don't expect your security deposit back if you make a mess in the bathroom.