Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Short Film Showcase: Nightshadows

2004
Dir. JT Seaton

Matthew Coburn is a young man who would like nothing more than to stay young and attractive forever. On the eve of his 30th birthday, he invites David, a young man he meets in an online chat-room to his home. In the middle of the night, Matthew wakes up to find himself alone. Or is he? He soon begins to realize that someone, or something, is lurking in the dark in his home. Is it David? Or someone else, skulking in the shadows? As Matthew is plunged into a waking nightmare, he comes to realise that the price of vanity is high… Very high.

Has your past ever come back to haunt you?

Unlike Hellbent - which came out the same year as this short film, and whose gay angle is its raison d’ĂȘtre - Nightshadows doesn’t need to rely on its ‘queerness’ to make it stand out. The characters in this dark tale of obsession and guilt could be of any sexual orientation. They just happen to be gay. What director Seaton is really concerned with is weaving together a number of elements to create an atmospheric, suspenseful and strikingly shot film. Nightshadows begins as it means to go, full of sinister forebodingness and implied threat, as two men hooking up for sex briefly exchange formalities and discuss the dangers of anonymous sex. They both comment that the other could be a killer, waiting until the other falls asleep before he strikes.

You don’t know anything about me. You’ve invited a complete stranger into your house. I could be a serial killer, using the internet to find my victims, getting them to invite me to their houses. And then killing them in their sleep. You never know."



The thrills and titillation of the chase and the anonymity of one night stands is exploited to create an uneasy atmosphere, in which the audience are fed just enough information to know that something isn’t right and this is a tale that is not going to end well. When Matthew awakens to find himself alone, in much the same way as John Carpenter's Halloween did, Seaton’s film also effectively conveys the terror of having the safety and sanctity of one’s own home invaded by an outside force. The lighting is incredibly atmospheric and recalls moody, shadowy locations from Val Lewton’s quiet 40s era chillers such as I Walked with a Zombie and Isle of the Dead. The soundtrack boasts an eerie wind that moves through the apartment, and even renders the usually comforting sound of wind chimes ominous. As Matthew wanders around the dark apartment, Seaton films the increasingly claustrophobic events from around corners and reflected in mirrors, as the shadows on walls constantly move and dance about, and the dark figures closing in on Matthew begin to gradually reveal themselves: all white eyes, rippling-torsos and slit throats. Come the revelation and the full realisation of why Matthew is being pursued by these semi-naked figures, the tension becomes unbearable and Seaton creates a number of immensely creepy images.


A highly atmospheric, suggestive and downright unsettling film, Nightshadows explores madness, guilt, obsession, mortality and the downright shocking acts people carry out in the name of vanity, to haunting effect.

Nightshadows is to be screened as part of the Gay of the Dead night at the 2nd Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival in Belfast on Saturday 28th August.

2 comments:

panavia999 said...

This sounds like a good double bill with "Cruising". That is if a person wanted a relentlessly creepy and disturnbing evening.

Jenn said...

This sounds really interesting. I recently watched HELLBENT with a gay friend of mine and we both found it wildly entertaining.

I'm going to have to check this out. Nice writeup, as usual :)