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average rating is 3 out of 5


William Hemingway


Posted on:

Feb 24, 2024

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Dhwani Shah
Written by:
Dhwani Shah
Sarah Hashmi, Rudraksh Thakur, Pragati Mishra

Whilst there have been a fair number of time-loop films given to audiences over the years; with the most prominent and worthwhile examples of these likely being, Groundhog Day (1993), Run Lola Run(1998) and Edge Of Tomorrow (2014); there are not so many which present us with the idea of a space-loop, or even better a spacetime-loop, where our main character is confined to a certain locale from which they cannot escape, no matter which direction they take to try and leave.


In writer/director Dhwani Shah’s new short film 44, however, this is exactly what we get. As the film opens we are able to witness the pre-amblings of a drug deal as three stooges bicker amongst themselves in the dark of a back alley. They’re waiting for their contact and one of their team (Thakur) is already looking worse for wear with a large gash right across his nose, while one of the other members (Mishra) is getting really anxious about the whole affair, saying that she wants to leave. Within all this we are introduced to Stu (Hashmi), the only named character, who we are set to follow for the rest of the film, and it is her who notices a blinking light on one of the top floors of a nearby derelict tower block.


Soon enough the cops turn up and a betrayal is revealed, but none of this really matters as it is only a very brief way in to the actual story, as Stu runs into the previously mentioned creepy tower block to hide from the authorities. This particular block was never completed and then left to decay, meaning that it is only an empty concrete shell with scores of exposed steel rods emerging from the pillars and walls. Despite there not being any windows or internal walls to reflect or hide her light, Stu still flashes her torch around willy-nilly to try and see where she is going, obviously ignoring the fact that if she could see a light on the top floor from outside, then the police would definitely be able to see her torchlight as she waves it about. But let’s not get caught up in the semantics.


So, without further ado, Stu sets about heading up the stairs to find a hiding space. Now sure, floor 2 and floor 3 probably aren’t going to cut it as the best places to hide, but surely you’d think that by floor 24 or floor 25, and there’s still no cops on your tail, you’d probably stop there and wait it out. Not Stu though, and so she climbs all the way up to floor 44, where something strange happens. Not only are there noises of bottles being kicked and other creepy noises coming from that floor, but no matter how any times she goes up or down the stairs from here, she always ends up back in the same place – back on floor 44.


With a strong horror element running through the entirety of Shah’s short film, there is always an intense feeling of mystery and fear which comes across. Shah’s direction adds to this by using oblique camera angles and repetitive sequences to add to the confusion, while the score from Ashwin Syam builds the creepiness factor with intense chords and off-kilter sounds. The acting, too, from Sarah Hashmi as Stu is commendable and believable, even if there are small inconsistencies in her character’s actions, and her performance is central to selling the core concept of the film to the audience.


While it may be easy for some to figure out just where 44 is going in its seventeen-minute runtime, with things being fairly well telegraphed from the first encounter, it does come together very well in the end and offers a well-rounded denouement which satisfies all of the elements within the film. Each technical aspect is handled well and the feel of the film is one which holds together through to the end. It’s just a shame there’s not more to this production, such as a proper lead-in to the story, or a more involved conflict within its middle, as with just having a little extra given to the audience to round everything out in the story and characterisation, 44 could have been elevated to something truly unique from something that is essentially still only a decent concept, not fully fleshed out.

About the Film Critic
William Hemingway
William Hemingway
Short Film, Digital / DVD Release, World Cinema
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