★ ★ ★
Written and Directed by: #RobHurtt
The Lock Keeper, written and directed by Rob Hurtt, is an intriguing and suspenseful short film; one which highlights the potential of Hurtt’s future work. A film that relies on intimate closeups and dialogue, Hurtt masterfully ties together themes of family and conflict whilst leaving the viewer unsettled and hungry for more. Yet despite such promise, the film collapses in its finale, turning any sense of enjoyment and artistry into a lingering feeling of disappointment.
The film begins with shots of an idyllic British countryside before introducing us to Spencer (Eric Colvin) and his family; celebrating a traditional family Christmas in their countryside home. But as more is revealed about the family and the history of its patriarch, not all is as it seems…
Though lasting only 10 minutes, Hurtt seemingly manages to create two films in one; it is perhaps worth reviewing it as such.
The “first film”, being the first seven minutes of The Lock Keeper, succeeds in building intrigue and suspense. The use of close-up shots, both as Colvin delivers his monologue and as the rest of the cast sit in silence, effectively conveys a sense of unease and uncertainty that reels the audience in. Likewise, Hurtt utilises panoramic shots of the idyllic countryside and scenery, used sparingly to break up the family scene. This simultaneously portrays the idyllic life that Spencer (Eric Colvin) has worked to create, and the façade that builds suspense for what is to come. A score that balances Christmas songs with suspenseful music compounds this sense of unease. By the end of this apparent first film, Hurtt has succeeded in reeling the audience in; cultivating intrigue and highlighting the potential of his directing to entertain and engage.
We then come to the “second film” where, much like with many a family Christmas, The Lock Keeper collapses. At the moment the Woman (Sara Dee) delivers her only line – delivered off-screen for a reason still unknown – the entire tone and substance of the film falls apart. An unconvincing fight scene, set to an unsuitable song and filmed using what appears to be a Snapchat filter, takes any intrigue and suspense Hurtt worked to build and throws it out the window. His decision to have Spencer directly address the camera, in what appears to be an attempt at dark humour, almost ruins what would have otherwise been a complex character. Hurtt closes the film with a seeming attempt to portray the insanity of its protagonist, rapidly switching between frames and set to screams and quotes from the film, in what appears to be nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to induce anxiety in the audience. What was once a promising short film falls short, leaving the audience with only disappointment and one question; what changed in the mind of Hurtt halfway through filming?
There is one saving grace that remains consistent throughout the film. Eric Colvin’s portrayal of Spencer, despite the apparent attempts of the direction to weaken his performance, is both endearing and convincing. Whilst the rest of the cast perform admirably (with special mention to Namour le Blanc’s cameo), Colvin’s strong performance helps to salvage what would otherwise be a notable example of a director’s vision leading to a film’s implosion.
It is truly a shame that The Lock Keeper descends into such disappointment. Almost all the film highlights the potential of Hurtt’s directing, that can effectively build intrigue and suspense from a small budget and simple concept. With refinement, Hurtt’s direction can only go upwards; but such promise does little to recover the nonsensical and confusing end to an otherwise strong short film.