Written, Produced & Directed by Geoff Harmer
Review by Joseph Banham
There is something inherently creepy about the obscure and ambiguous; the terror of indistinct figures lurking inconspicuously at the edge of a frame. Films such as “Sinister” (2012) put this fear to good use, with its demon appearing subtly in the background of old home movies, as well as “Insidious” (2011) which features a sequence where the main antagonist slowly draws closer and closer in a series of progressively menacing photographs. Both films draw from the idea of an unknown force who is only visible through visual media, building suspense from the thought that the hostile spectre could always be present around the characters, they just are unable to see it; when they do, it’s just a fleeting glimpse in the form of a blurry photograph or the freeze frame of a shaky handheld video.
It is from this primal fear that Geoff Harmer crafts his horror short “Selfie”. The film stars Stacy Hart as an unnamed young woman in her living room at night. As she starts having a text conversation with her boyfriend, sending him flirtatious selfies, she soon starts to realise from his replies that there is something eerie lurking in the shadows behind her in all of the pictures- one photo bomber you definitely don’t want to have.
Like a great number of classic horror films, Harmer makes the most out of the low-key production values. With just one main actress (not counting the uninvited guest), one location, and very little spoken dialogue, the director makes the most out of the terrifying sense of isolation and helplessness. He expertly cranks up the tension within the seven-minute running time to a nail-biting climax, in a similar way to that of the late, great, horror maestro Wes Craven in the opening scene of “Scream” (1996). I always felt the cold sting of dread whenever the defenseless heroine checked her phone, anticipating the slow reveal of the mysterious intruder.
The film is both very well lit and shot, engulfing the frame in shadow as the tension is racked up. It is also accompanied by a crescendoing, foreboding soundtrack which, along with the distorted lull of the TV, creates a very unnerving atmosphere.
The film is inevitably hindered in its believability by the classic questionable actions of horror characters. Why, for instance, is the unseen boyfriend not more alarmed by seeing what is clearly a creepy invader in his girlfriend's house? However, worrying about such slight details didn’t seem to be at the forefront of the filmmakers minds, whose main priority seems to have been to just have fun scaring the viewer with a simple premise, and due to the film’s brief length the audience doesn’t really have time to question such niggling gaps in logic.
The short does feel as though it could be the opening scene to something bigger, with the interesting idea behind the monster having the potential to be expanded out into a feature length storyline; a creature that exists and stalks its prey in the modern realm of social media is certainly an inventive premise with a range of possibilities. As it is though, it’s one hell of an effective short. Horror fans, this is definitely worth a look.