Directed by: Ricky Townsend
Written by: #RickyTownsend
A dramatisation of the 2010 quake which led to the even worse 2011 Christchurch earthquake, short film Tremble from filmmaker Ricky Townsend is an atmospheric and intimately chilling account of one person's experience of that night. Told with a ghost story methodology, with plenty of religious connotations, the short is rooted in local tragedy and sorrow.
Faith (Ocean Jones) is a talented painter living in Christchurch. For a large section of the movie she is talking to Owen (Harrison Searancke) on the telephone. The pair arrange to meet the following night but are unaware of the harrowing events which will follow.
Townsend uses some classic #horror tropes to tell his story. There is so much foreboding in Tremble that audiences will feel a palpable terror swarming the central character. Dark scenes and slow zooms on a picture of a church are just a couple of cinematic techniques used to make the viewer feel the same kind of tension and unease that citizens of Christchurch feel on a daily basis, plagued as they are by these natural disasters.
Townsend also utilises mythology in his storytelling to add dramatic depth to the piece. The opening credits detail a tale about an unborn god whose kicks in the womb would move lands. This becomes more emotive when you consider the medicinal nature of the film. Coming to terms with such huge devastation and attempting to understand the impact on a community is going to be incredibly difficult. By exploring the natural destruction which occurred through the lens of a potential higher power, the filmmaker is able to bring even more poignancy to the story. This allowed for a particularly bold final third in the movie.
The central performance from Jones is good if a little safe. Her chemistry with Searancke is believable and their flirty chat is endearing but when the plot starts to get more frightening we never see a full explosion of terror. It's actually her dog who provides the most on screen passion, barking at two potential intruders (or at the impending catastrophe). There was also an issue with an ill-judged electric guitar score over the latter part of Tremble. It felt dated and may bring audiences right out of the movie.
Overall, however, an emotive and eclectic #shortfilm that pays hearty tribute to the natural disasters that torment the local community of Christchurch in New Zealand. The genre tricks used and the immersive atmosphere created by Townsend are compelling and intriguing.