Monday 23 July 2012

The Waking (2010)

Director: John Stead
Stars: Sophie Goulet and Jonathan Goad
This film was an official selection at the 8th annual International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival in Scottsdale in 2012. Here's an index to my reviews of 2012 films.
The Waking is a Canadian short made in 2010 but in many ways it feels like a much older piece. The focus is on tension, which is managed deliciously throughout, especially through superb use of sound: not just John Rowley's score but all the sound. It's telling that, as much visual material as there is to play with, this works well even with the visuals off. You lose the fluid camerawork, the lush lighting and the careful composition, as well as Sophie Goulet's exquisite performance, but you gain even more creepiness in the ambience. Rowley goes for the sort of simply effective themes that John Carpenter does, but these are quieter and more subtle, reminiscent of Coil. The dialogue is sparse, as Anna is the only character in play for most of the film, so we're even more aware of each sound with nothing to distract from it. Adding the visuals back in enhances them, bringing life to the sound cues and ably growing the tension.

The story itself is relatively simple and far from new. Anna is moving into her dream home, but is left to unpack on her own as her husband Tom has commitments elsewhere once everything has been brought inside. The camera is fluid and frequently in motion, highlighting to us what Anna is feeling, namely that something else is in the house with her, something that she merely can't see. Things progress roughly how you might expect. Doors open and shut by themselves. There are odd noises. The mellodion starts and stops on its own. There's a superbly executed shot of a mysterious figure in the shadows. The presence really doesn't like Anna's wedding photo. Best of all is the ball of string that rolls itself into view, while Anna ponders things at the kitchen table. It has to be said that nothing here is new: the ideas, the shocks, the techniques, even the twist. Yet the craft with which John Stead puts all of this together is magnificent, textbook stuff.

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