Written and Directed by Fred Cavender
Starring Rob Lawrence, Bess Davies, Kaitlyn McGill, Lloyd Lewis
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
Thrilling dystopian dramas seem to be right in filmmaker Fred Cavender’s wheelhouse. Having delivered the immensely impressive short The Golden Shore, as well as a string of other movies in 2017, this latest titled The Damned, is just as thematically bleak but even more cinematic.
Audiences would be forgiven for thinking that with a title like The Damned they were in store for yet another zombie outbreak flick. No, the title here is far more literal and refers to both the characters and setting of the short. Living inside a city surrounded by giant walls, the citizens of this place go about an existence which is mild and bland. Bereft of fresh food and a decent view, few things flourish in the city of The Damned. Over the course of the short film we see a potential romance blossom, a young woman express her futile revolt, and a few other inhabitants looking to improve what little joys they have by seeking home improvements or new experiences.
For a short film to be so immediately arresting, you cannot help but notice that Cavender is a storyteller who knows his trade like the devil knows dark. Visually, his approach is never direct enough to be predictable, and yet within minutes he manages to establish a sci-fi landscape that could rival that of Blade Runner or Children of Men. From the towering opening shot of the city to the intimate dinner of two of the citizens, it's a short film bursting at the seams with flair, capability, and intrigue.
From a storyline aspect, The Damned takes multiple threads and weaves a simple yet compelling watch. Compared with The Golden Shore, there is not as much meat on these bones, but what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in gripping tension and terrific visual spectacle. It would have been really interesting to chop one or two of the subplots and see what Cavender did with a more linear and svelte approach in this fantastically created world, if only to engage with the drama as much as the atmosphere. That being said, what The Damned is is just as entertaining, especially if you are a viewer with a penchant for immersive and palpable tension and stunning visuals.
The performances are decent, in particular Bess Davies who captures more of the emotional fragility of the story through her facial expressions, coping well to balance the light flirtations with one of the residents against the tragic reality of her surroundings.
Films of a similar genre will often opt for a lengthy exposition sequence (often using splatter gun news footage to do the heavy lifting) in order to explain the plot and even the morality lessons for the viewer. What was so intelligent about The Damned was its ability to let the audience fill in the blanks if they want to and to not bombard them with copious and unnecessary filler. Instead, they get a watertight cinematic experience with a short film that knows it's strengths and uses them with sturdy craftsmanship.
Watch the official movie trailer for The Damned below...
Or watch the short film for free below...