There are some short films that have made me gasp. With some I’ve found myself whispering ‘what the…’. No Way Out propelled a string of obscenities that could put a Cockney crime lord to shame.
It must be said, in recent years, the horror genre has had a bit of a rough time in the feature film domain. Sure, there’s been some break-out hits in recent times (Saw, Hostel, Paranormal Activity for instance), but really, have any of them actually scared you? If you’re a horror fan, you’ll probably sigh at the gore porn of the Saw films, laugh at the cheap thrills of Paranormal Activity and wonder why there’s no fresh wave of horror films (besides those ceaseless remakes of 80s slasher films – we all get it Mr. Rob Zombie, you love these films, now stop defecating on their memory, please and thank you).
Short films on the other hand have delayed the rut of ceaseless remakes and cheap pastiches that Hollywood seems stuck in, where you can second-guess every action and motivation from the first five seconds of the film. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of all invention, and with ten minutes or less to grab the audience by the cuffs and scare the contents of their bowels out, Short Films have become the standard bearer for modern horror.
Isolated and under attack by strange creatures (I should take the time to say those monsters are incredibly well crafted given the film had a budget of less than $3000), our protagonist attempts to ward them off with a cut-throat razor for the first half of the piece, before being thrown into a cell for the second half. Those first few minutes of No Way Out are a perfect exercise in building tension. The sound effects, though at times somewhat overwrought, exaggerate the sense of isolation that AJ Bowen creates in his performance. The feeling of being beset by some faceless demon, with no available escape – when he tries to escape, the fear of the unknown provokes a ‘better the devil you know’ approach and he swiftly retreats back into the beast’s lair. Everything adds to the sense of dread and foreboding.
Although the first half is undoubtedly brilliant, Kristoffer Aaron Morgan’s work reaches ever-greater heights in the disturbing final scenes in the cell. Constantly under attack from the creatures, the character can see out into a white void through a hole in the wall. With the contrast between the white freedom and the dark aggravated psyche of his cell, the metaphor of the piece is obvious, and has been explicitly stated by Morgan in that it’s a simple “poem about being paralyzed by your own thoughts”.
What’s refreshing about this Short, is that they managed to say more in under ten minutes than most modern horror films can achieve with nigh on two hours. Perhaps those in Hollywood should take note – it is possible to create a film with depth, as well as scaring the pants off of people.