Tuesday, 8 April 2014
Writer: Gav Chuckie Steel
Producer: Jess Sinclair
Cast: Sarah Gobran, James Chalmers, Phil Laslet
Reviewed from: online
Here’s a smashing British horror short with a brilliantly simple premise, effective execution and a chilling ambience. Monitor is the latest offering from Gav Chuckie Steel who first came to the attention of BHR fans with his 2012 feature The Shadow of Death.
Personally, I was no great fan of The Shadow of Death, a zero-budget comedy slasher about pot-smoking teenagers in a woodland cabin being stalked by a rentamaniac. But as I have observed in the past, a film-maker needs to make a first film and in today’s world that tends to be released in some form whereas once it would have sat on the shelf while the person honed their craft. Still, I gather that slasher fans liked it, and they were the target audience.
Monitor is an altogether different kettle of fish: a serious horror short which much better shows off Steel’s talent (or shows how far he has come in the past couple of years). Partly this is organisational, in that this time he has used a cinematographer (Phil Adams) rather than shooting it himself. Conversely, for the short Gav has handled his own editing (as well as the music, which he also did on Shadow). These are wise decisions and they show.
The monitor of the title is a baby monitor, and the brilliant conceit is: what would happen if you heard not just your baby sleeping but a creepy voice? James Chalmers (who was in Luke Massey’s unreleased 2008 feature Within the Woods) is the dad, Sarah Gobran (co-founder of the Guildford Shakespeare Company, last seen on screen ten years ago in Wolfgang Büld’s Lovesick: Sick Love) is the mum and neither looks like they are getting much sleep, which is accurate for the parents of a tiny baby. Each reacts as if the voice might be an intruder, naturally, their parental concern kicking in, but we the audience – awake and rationalising and having sat down to watch a horror film – can hear that it’s not a burglar, it’s something altogether spookier than that.
Adams’ low-light photography is very good, convincing s that it’s dark while leaving enough light to see clearly what is going on. The use of a real baby (Adams’ own daughter, apparently) certainly helps the film’s verisimilitude. Mark Kelly, who worked on Shadow of Death, provides the limited effects makeup on show.
Gav Chuckie Steel has shown that he can make a feature-length film (always an achievement in itself). He has shown that he can make an effective and spooky horror film. Now let’s see him combine those two levels of experience into his second feature. In the meantime, if Monitor is screening at your local festival – or if it’s publicly available on YouTube/Vimeo by the time you read this – then it is very deserving of your time.
(Not to be confused, of course, with David VG Davies’ 2012 feature Monitor.)
MJS rating: A-