Directed by: Michael Coulombe
Short Film Review by: #ChrisBuick
“Act as if yes is the only living thing”
The concept of viral content goes right back to the early days of the internet when we all had to deal with those annoying chain emails – you know – pass this on to ten people or something bad will happen to you.
While the formats have changed over the years, we still all see or receive countless links to GIFs, memes and clips every day that have been passed around several social media platforms and message boards hundreds of times. And while these links might provide us with a small chuckle, a brief feeling of anger or a quick fright, generally nothing truly horrific happens to us any time we open one of them. However, short film Soundbite from director Michael Coulombe uses this premise to explore what might happen if one of those links we receive contains something more sinister.
A woman known as “The Girl” (Taylor Murphy-Sinclair) is settling down in front of her computer. Alone in her dark room, the familiar white glare of a laptop screen illuminates her face until she opens a link, now faced with the image of a skull against a black background grinning right back at her. Intrigued, she dons her headphones and clicks play to watch the clip. The skull begins to pulse on the screen, accompanied by a horrific screeching sound which builds relentlessly in her ears until it entrances her completely. That is when the voices come, and they are not friendly.
All the aspects of this #shortfilm seem to blend together brilliantly to really give it a great sense of tension from the start, which only grows throughout. The small, single room setting brings a uneasy feeling of claustrophobia, while the moody lighting of the scene really helps accentuate the dark and sinister tone of the film. All of this is emphasised by a strong performance from Murphy-Sinclair, who manages to fully convey the horrible influence this clip is having on her. Not to mention there is some very apt signage which foreshadows the film’s dramatic conclusion.
But as the film’s title might suggest, the clever use of sound is the real standout here, making the movie all that more effective not only with its presence but with its absence as well. Starting with the girl alone in a silent room with only the sound of her fingers tapping on her devices, this near-silence turns out to be key in making the sounds to come much more impactful, which together with the visuals all culminates in causing the viewer to feel very uncomfortable as we watch this girl suffer.
Soundbite opts to not rely on traditional horror tropes to scare, but rather brings something a bit creative to the table. The short movie itself might be seen as a cautionary metaphor for the dangers we open ourselves up to every time we connect online and despite only clocking in at just over 4 mins, it keeps you invested right to the end and proves that you can make a real impression with great quality over quantity.
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