Jan 10, 2024
Rowan Casson-du Mont
Liam Woodlands-Mooney, Alex Hall, Stella Casson-du Mont
Eostre (2021) is a truly involving exercise in atmosphere, and it’s worth your time. This period short film tells the story of a monk who attempts to ingratiate himself amongst the community of a mysterious village, but not all is what it seems. With the tagline ‘An Anglo-Saxon Horror Story’, the piece slowly transitions from dramatic mystery to supernatural body-horror – leading the audience through an episodic progression of disturbia; a crescendo with a gut-punch of a climax which elevates the short to another level. It could be argued that it owes a debt to Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), wherein an unaware protagonist wanders into a terrifying world of ritual and collective paranoia, only to have his own fate inevitably sealed.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this film, from its mood building to its exciting directorial choices; however, the star of the show is without question the impeccable production design which showcases an attention to detail that’s unusual in a production of this kind. Production design is a frequently overlooked element of filmmaking in general, but you only have to watch work such as this to understand how essential it is in building a sense of place and time. Every building, costume and tool seen in camera feels grounded and fully realised. Additionally in terms of makeup, the most memorable moment in the piece comes in the practical effects present in the denouement: reminiscent of a certain iconic sequence in An American Werewolf in London (1981), viewers are treated to a ferociously enjoyable display of gruesome character design -- not to mention, the wonderful sound design goes a long way in selling the ickiness of the moment. This is quality low-budget filmmaking.
Despite the praise, the film could have gone further with a more gothic aesthetic. The slightly muted visuals don’t quite match the extreme nature of this supernatural folktale; there was an opportunity to take an expressionistic approach (darker shadows, more expressive lighting, etc.) to further add to its potent atmosphere, and it feels as if the filmmakers missed a trick in visual terms. Nevertheless, this is but a minor stylistic complaint – in fact, there is some fantastic technical cinematography on display: namely, some incredibly virtuosic moments of camera motion. Multiple shots, using a dolly, are of a high professional quality and are selected sparingly but therefore effectively to implement a sense of scale and depth to our progressing story.
One should not neglect to consider the level of ambition that is present in this film. There is something to admire in the fact that the locations we are shown feel genuine and of their time – this is an achievement in producing terms. Moreover, the large cast of appropriately costumed characters (down to the impressive beards) provide this project with a unique kind of production value not often present within student cinema. But production value aside, this film is simply an entertaining watch. While not without flaw, Eostre offers up a fun and surprising viewing experience designed to please fans of innovative independent cinema and horror enthusiasts alike.