The Scared One
A scarecrow is used to protect -- but from what?
Now, as many of you have seen your share of short film blocks at festivals far and wide – you know you get a very mixed bag of tricks with the shorts (certainly at genre festivals). Some laugh-out-loud funny horror, gross-out horror, horror laced with sci-fi – and then you get films like The Scared Ones…
…the truly terrifying pieces which will linger in your memory for days to come.
A young boy (Hadrien Boulme-Alberti) watches his father (Olivier Banse) construct a scarecrow at the front of a field on their farm. The boy is immediately scared of it. Later, in the middle of the night, the boy checks on the scarecrow, only to find the cross where the scarecrow had been mounted – now empty. Then there are noises outside of his room.
The film is timeless. We’re never made aware of when this is taking place, so there’s an added sense of uncertainty as the film goes on. Will there be a cell phone interruption? Maybe. Will some random Range Rover appear to save the day? Possibly. Or, will it be a man in a carriage who steps in to offer some assistance? None of these things happen of course, but the point is – the wishy-washiness of the era makes things more eerie – if that’s even possible.
Shot in black and white, the film uses dialogue sparingly. When I spoke to Romain at Shriekfest, the usage of B/W was conscious, so that the use of shadow could be employed with more frequency and power. Believe me, it worked.
There’s not much to say about performance, other than the young boy convincingly looks and acts scared – perhaps he was. This was his first foray into acting, and with the design of the scarecrow, even being on set with it – well, I can imagine it didn’t take much for this young man to fall into the terror his character was meant to experience. The only other actor (other than the performer behind the scarecrow) is the father, played by Olivier Banse. Again, with very little dialogue in the 13-minute short, Banse still manages to get a hearty laugh from his delivery of a brilliantly-written line. But the film belongs to Boulme-Alberti as the young boy. He is able to make even the most stalwart horror fan remember what it was like to be a little kid in a dark room in the middle of the night.
There is a message – a sort of cautionary tale about parents and their children who may be a little neurotic, idiosyncratic or just plain odd. I was reminded of The Babadook and the difficult and trying relationship between the mother (Essie Davis) and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman), and how tough it must be to have such a busy-body and strange kid. The message is quite clear, quite sad and quite a warning – certainly at the film’s conclusion.
The film is nail-biting and so perfectly matched up with the jump scares — is the painfully suspenseful silence and the breathless pregnant pauses between any movement on the screen.
Sound design is also of the utmost importance here, as the scarecrow’s digits – constructed of branches – tickle the hardwood floors of the boy’s room. And with an assumed frame of larger sticks covered in straw and clothing, you can imagine what it might sound like when a creature like that creeps through your room in the middle of a dark night.
The Scared One is just beginning its international festival run, so if you see it on the books for a short film block in your area, make it a priority screening.
I’ve been writing reviews for two years now – with about 200 articles in the “done” pile – and have handed out a scant six (6!) perfect 5-star scores. With The Scared One being a clear stand-out in a sea of amazing shorts at this year’s Shriekfest – I can now add a seventh perfectly scored review. It’s really that terrifying, that thought-provoking and that good.