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average rating is 4 out of 5


Rob Jones


Posted on:

Mar 10, 2023

Film Reviews
Directed by:
Christopher Mays
Written by:
Christopher Mays
Claire Lefort, Donna Dasher, Colton Davis, Dorothy Monforte

Despite its short runtime, Rake manages to play a sort of greatest-hits of horror setlist. There’s an outwardly religious yet abusive mother, a teenager experiencing problems at school due to her mental health issues, and even a cabin in the woods. In combining so many different aspects of the genre, it can be difficult to find the film’s own unique identity amongst it all. It isn’t for a lack of quality or craft, Rake certainly does have both, but this is perhaps an idea that needs to be presented in a medium with more space to unpack itself than that of a short film.


It’s shot and acted beautifully across multiple locations. Whether we’re at home, in a public building or in the woods, it’s clear that the team behind this has an eye for memorable aesthetics that serve to create a sense of foreboding doom without crossing the faint line into corniness. Combined with an understated and simple score, much of what Rake achieves on a technical production level is on par with what we’d expect from any international theatrical horror release from the last few years. If any criticism was to be levelled at it in this area, it would be that nothing is ever as scary as we make it in our own minds. For most of the film it plays into that idea, but it doesn’t resist the temptation to put together its own monster and that’s a small shame in an otherwise fantastic visual effort.


The concept of the story does veer off into something that doesn’t quite make sense, or at least something that we don’t have enough context in order to make sense of. Despite a strong start that has us asking all the right questions, the answers never really come. There appears to be some kind of witchcraft element to it all, but the significance of the word “rake” and how it all came to be feel like vital pieces to the puzzle that are never touched upon. There’s an expediency in setting up the central conflict between mother and daughter that allows us to relate to the motivation of it all, but the reasons for how and why would have been interesting additions.


There is a fascinating juxtaposition of the faith of the mother versus the faith of the daughter. It's never divulged explicitly but it can be inferred by visual cues that this is a classic horror character who prides herself on her religion without upholding any of its values. The daughter, on the other hand, visits this cabin in the woods which acts as a sort of church where she's able to pray to a vengeful God of some description. They both have their own faiths for selfish reasons, but there's an intriguing philosophical question of which is more ethical that comes from that. Is it a mother who's openly abusive but keeping a facade of religious faith for her own self-image, or is it a daughter praying for vengeance with no pretence?


Rake is visually stunning and intellectually stimulating, with fantastic performances from its cast. Although it has its flaws and it feels like there are parts missing to form a completely coherent story, it doesn’t take away from this being a tremendous achievement from a team that obviously knows its genre very well.

About the Film Critic
Rob Jones
Rob Jones
Short Film
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