Updated: Jul 10, 2020
Directed by: #LuanaDiPasquale
Written by: #LuanaDiPasquale
Keep Mum is a psychological horror/drama short film from director and writer, Luana Di Pasquale. Horror is a famously difficult genre to tackle in film, let alone in a short film with a small budget and short runtime. However, with clever use of setting, concise yet layered storytelling and wonderful central performances, Di Pasquale has gone against all odds and created a piece that is haunting and sure to get under your skin. What makes this all the more impressive is the fact that this is Di Pasquale's directorial debut.
The film opens with our nameless protagonist as she silently digs a hole in her garden. A Christmas tree clues the audience in to the time of year before they are whisked back in time to images of this woman dancing in a drunken haze, wearing a white shirt covered in blood. From the instant the short film starts, every detail is shrouded in mystery and intrigue and the audience is left no choice but to jump on board and try to piece things together. This method of storytelling is wildly effective, immediately creating an atmosphere of unease and incentivising active viewing.
The way the film handles its horror is equally successful. This isn't a story about the supernatural; it tells a dark and twisted tale of domestic abuse and the effects it can have on family and mental health and this ensures that the film, like any truly great horror, isn't forgotten as the credits roll. Instead, this is a film that has themes and beats that are sure to stay with you long after it has ended.
What helps to make the events convincing and thus chilling are the two performances at the heart of it. There are only two characters in the piece, the protagonist - who is known only as 'Mum' - and her son, Danny. These two are played by real-life mother and son, Nadira and Cameron Murray and the choice to cast genuine relatives in a familial horror is one that has paid off in droves. The anguish seen in the mother and the young, confused anger seen in Danny feels painfully real and the on-screen relationship is bolstered unimaginably by their real world connection.
On top of this, the setting is something of a master stroke. Switching from repeated use of intensely claustrophobic rooms to large, sweeping shots of the English coast makes for some interesting viewing. By turn, it throws the audience straight into the centre of the unpleasant action before opening up into beautiful wide views with no real distinct sense of place or explanation. This is a fantastic way of disorientating the audience and allowing the sense of confusion to carry all the way through until the film's powerful final moments.
Keep Mum is a haunting short film that takes everything good about horror and condenses it into a snappy, thrilling and disturbing package. Everything here works, from the auteristic lighting to the brilliant performances and the unflinchingly dark themes. It is a film that is satisfying to piece together yet the answers revealed sit heavy after the credits have rolled. For a horror short film, this is an impressive piece. For a debut, Di Pasquale has worked miracles and instantly carved her name into the genre and the industry as one to watch.