” The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door…”
‘Knock’ by Frederick Brown is a smart and subtle example of horror at in its most refined form; often two sentences can do a lot more than two pages. The same goes for cinema, often a short film with a sharp, intelligent concept can go further than a feature film, planting a penetrative, distinctive into your mind to haunt you late at night.
Look no further than short films such as Light’s Out or Mama, fantastic short films, below five minutes in duration, that plant themselves into your subconscious to last a lifetime. Fatefully enough, both of these aforementioned films went on to be developed into full-length features but were unable to capture the essence of what made them so scary in the first place.
Sometimes, and often in the case of horror, the less said the better. When unexplained and uncanny, horror comes into its own. This is what Michael Chaves’ film The Maiden, manages to achieve so well, following an estate agent evaluating an old mansion who becomes distracted by a stalking shadow. “It’s a great way to showcase a scare,” Chavez once said of the short form horror film. If it’s comedy, it should have laughs. If it’s action, there should definitely be some thrills. With a horror/thriller, you need scares. That’s just bite-size entertainment. It’s harder to do really honest, comprehensive character development in a short. The reality is people want an instant gratification with a short. That’s what works really well with a horror short.”
The film revolves around a small black amulet that the estate agent takes into her possession, no more explanation is necessary, for those well versed in even the smallest dose of horror, the narrative is clear. It’s a neat and concise horror, utilising a compelling soundscape alongside some clever scares which are not always so easy to forecast. “First of all, I liked the idea that both the house and this dark mysterious character are very intertwined,” Chavez commented on the film. “Basically, she was named after the first resident. There was this dark cloud surrounding her and the house and their fates were intertwined.”
He added: “I felt for The Maiden to stand out, there needs to be some kind of twist on it or a nice hook. I was thinking about the structure of it and all of them begin with this young happy family as they move into the house. The real estate agent hands them the keys. I was thinking, ‘What if that’s the ending of the movie? What if we back up and see everything that led up to that moment?’. There’s that horrible real estate agent, who is basically handing over this terrible property. How did she get to that point? Is she a bad person or was she pushed into a really desperate situation? That intrigued me. I liked the idea of someone pushed to the brink. So, that was basically it. Why do good people do bad things?”
Chaves has since gone on to direct the underwhelming The Curse of La Llorona as well as the forthcoming Conjuring threequel, so whilst we wait for the latter’s 2021 release, enjoy the directors finest outing below: