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average rating is 3 out of 5


Joe Beck


Posted on:

Oct 10, 2022

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Terrell Williams
Written by:
Terrell Williams
Aaron Potts, Freddy Moyano

Plenty of intrigue surrounds ‘Alive’, a short film by Terrell Williams, but it doesn’t amount to much more than that. The short provokes questions that it doesn’t answer. Constrained by its four-minute runtime, as a result ‘Alive’ flounders, unable to provide anything more than questions over the nature of its story.


Opening with scrawling typeface - as has become the norm with short films ever since ‘Star Wars’ - we are forced to quickly dissect that there have been multiple reports of homicides recently in an area, however, all that’s been left behind at each crime scene is a pool of blood - leaving the detectives stumped. Unfortunately, the opening exposition contains numerous grammatical errors - minor things like ‘thats’ where it should be ‘that’s’, and explains its synopsis in an extremely roundabout way. This sets a precedent for the remainder of the film, as it feels a little rushed and unpolished - a little rough around the edges.


This most obviously comes across in the sound mixing, as dialogue is inaudible whilst Justin Sanetra’s score, though it is marvellous, plays loudly in the background. Furthermore, the camera is at times disruptively shaky, particularly in the opening scene, and the sets never appear to be anything more than what they are - sets.


We then cut to an urban setting as a train rolls past and a gunshot rings out. We know something is up. It’s at that moment when what you expect to be a police procedural cut down to four minutes becomes an eerie body horror film and takes on a tantalisingly interesting story, which you only wish could last longer. Three people are sitting in a room, and there are gaping holes in the back of their necks, with a disturbing worm-like movement from inside the bloody wound. In an instant, the film is transformed, as the title card - ‘Alive’ - flickers to ‘A lie’.


The very nature of the film is possessed by the gothic - as the abject fast becomes the uncanny, and terror grows and grows. Justin Sanetra’s eerie score instils the viewer with a sense of dread, and puts you on edge, expecting something to leap out of the screen. Writer-director Terrell Williams masterfully imbues the film with elements of horror, from uncannily off-centre shots to the blank monotone of Mr Flores (Freddy Moyano), as he runs a test on one of the victims, Jeffrey (Aaron Potts).


Performances are standard, but Williams relies more on the shock of his scenario than the versatility of his performers to scare the audience. However, ultimately that shock amounts to nothing beyond questions about the complexities of the story. It doesn’t create thought-provoking parallels to our reality or any philosophical meditations. This is in part because it is restricted to a mere four minutes, but also because the writing lacks depth beyond shock value.


Nevertheless, ‘Alive’ is an effective horror - filled with suspense and intrigue, which grips you and leaves you wanting more from a concept which would suit a feature-length feature.

About the Film Critic
Joe Beck
Joe Beck
Short Film
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