Directed by: #CallumWindsor
Based on Goethe’s poem ‘Erlkönig’, director Callum Windsor takes on a modern-day journey of grief and the exploration of death in The Erl King. The original poem depicts a father rushing his son on horseback to a farm, failing to see the demon ‘Erl King’ that is trying to take away his child, yet Windsor decides to take the story in a slightly different direction while still being faithful to its roots. We are presented with the character of Alfie (Lewis Hyman), a scarred young boy who appears to see what his mother, Julia (Louise Eliker), does not; he plays with his dead father and sees small puppets come to life. Julia becomes increasingly worried and stressed about her child, her frustration fuelled by her own hatred of her deceased husband.
The Erl King is written very well, with good sense of punctuality to strengthen the horror aspect of the story. Part of the original poem is recited effectively by Alfie, and this haunting narration is likely to give one a hint of the chills. Child actors do not always work out, but Lewis Hyman seems to have done a good job in giving us a performance of a crazed child, haunted by the mysterious Erl King and his father, who are indeed the same person (Simon Victor). Louise Eliker acts superbly, and the detachment from her child was very clear. Her frustration was sometimes frustrating for me, as it was perhaps overacted. Simon Victor is very sinister as not only the father in the first scene, but also as the titular Erl King.
For a short horror film, The Erl King builds tension very well. I understand that it is difficult to do this in such a short time, but it seems that Windsor’s direction and Charlie Parkin’s cinematography and editing is good mix, and their chemistry is clearly presented in this tension. The use of colour was finished spectacularly, especially in the final scene. Colour is a very important aspect in horror, and I believe that it is often overlooked with many using a dull tone to reflect morbidity, but it looks like Parkin knew this already. The score was harsh and cold, with soft touches to pull at our heart strings. However, it was not a particularly memorable score, and sometimes this can make the horror film just that much more amazing.
The Erl King is haunting. It is not particularly scary, but it is a heart wrenching too. This adaptation does its job; it deals with grief and belonging through a family setting, and it isn’t afraid to stray far from the original material.