Answer Your Phone
16 Feb 2022
Oliver Midson, Rhiannon Newman
You know how it is – you're trying to get stuff done, like the dishes or the washing or the ironing; or you're taking some time for yourself with some exercise or yoga or meditation – and then that familiar little tone sounds in the background, shattering your peace; that bell which announces the arrival of some new message or post or text or video which you cannot ignore.
Your heart rate gets faster, your blood pressure goes up, adrenaline and cortisol begin to flood your system, and now you're in no mood to continue with what you were doing previously. Now there's something more pressing and urgent which requires your attention.
Writer/director Benji Wragg seemingly knows this feeling all too well, as his short film Answer Your Phone will testify. In this six minute horror short an unnamed man (Midson) is haunted by an unseen force which tracks his every move. He can't seem to get ten steps without feeling that there's some sort of monkey on his back and there doesn't appear to be anything he can do to escape it. Above ground or below it, outdoors or inside, this malevolence stalks him at every turn.
This unnamed man, however, does have a lifeline to the outside world. Nancy seems interested in and concerned about him, as her messages and attempted phone calls signify. They seem to be coming thick and fast in fact, and actually the unnamed man doesn't look like he's sure he wants to be picking them up. Maybe there's something more sinister at play here than just a troubled journey home.
Right from the off Wragg's film looks slick and ominous with its blood red slasher titles and impressive opening shot. The photography is fluid and well judged, offering a real sense of claustrophobia and dread, and the incidental music from Drew Handcock keeps the viewer unsettled with its industrial metal tones and creepy ringtone inspired jingle.
It can be difficult to judge the acting prowess of Oliver Midson as the unnamed man, with the film having no direct dialogue, but he does manage to embody an anxious youth pretty well as he stumbles about and keeps looking over his shoulder. There's only so much that can be achieved in a six minute short, but in terms of production Answer Your Phone is accomplished throughout. The story, however, keeps things basic, paints its themes with broad strokes and there are no real surprises within.
Wragg has said he wanted this film to reflect how it feels to be in an abusive relationship as well as the mental fallout that can result. He has certainly managed to achieve something close to that with the atmosphere of the film, although at points it can feel as though things are a little one note. He has successfully created something that offers the tension, shock and horror needed but only allows himself enough space to focus on one main idea.
All in all Answer Your Phone is a simple but effective drama with a real message at its core.