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When the Tar Leaks Red Short Film Review


Directed by: Dominic Stewart

Written by: Dominic Stewart

Starring: Racquel Stewart, Celia Learmonth


Dominic Stewart’s When the Tar Leaks Red opens with a confession of guilt. A woman (Racquel Stewart) lies in bed, and her voice-over admits things to us. Her voice has a haunting quality to it which is matched by the darkness of the room she sleeps in. You know the narrative would shift to a horror territory when the camera shows Henry Fuseli’s painting, The Nightmare, hanging on the wall. As expected, the nightmare appears. What I was not expecting was the sudden shrink in the aspect ratio. It takes the form of an Academy ratio, but narrower. The woman now literally looks trapped in a container.

It’s far from visual gimmickry as it serves a purpose. It represents sleep paralysis along with the idea of being captured by your own guilt. A ghostly figure (Celia Learmonth) slowly climbs on top of the woman. To protect herself, this woman eyes a glass next to her. But she is not able to reach for the object. Moreover, she is unable to scream as her entire body is immobilized. The images you see are visceral, and the ghost is really, eerily scary. But who are these people? What is the purpose of this film? Is it all only a nightmare or something more than that?

To your aid comes a reference from the director himself. He cites the tale of Lamia and Hera from Greek mythology as inspiration. To those of you who are lagging behind in your Greek mythologies and have no clue as to what those two names mean, here is a short crash course. Lamia was a queen of Libya and was beloved by Zeus. The two started having an affair, about which Hera found out. Swept with a feeling of intense jealousy, Hera killed every one of Lamia’s children. Hence, turning Lamia into a child-eating sea monster. There are alternate versions of this story, but the essence remains the same.

When the dream sequence is over, and the woman wakes up in the morning, she is shocked by a revelation. Together we realize that what we heard and saw was not merely a nightmare after all. The dream might be over, but the consequence of her actions would continue to plague her. Our personal demon, in the end, arises from our own deeds.



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