Horror is a genre that particularly lends itself to the short format, whether the written word, graphic works such as EC comics and their like, or film, but that doesn’t mean they are easy to do. The short format requires an economy of story telling – every beat must count. Unfortunately, short format creative work has a more limited distribution than their longer kin, so it is that much more important to spread the word when a deserving horror short film drills into your psyche. With that in mind, Laid to Rest (2017) is a short film that deserves to be seen!
Written and directed by Jennifer Valdes (Isabelle, 2015), Laid to Rest (2017) is an 8-minute short that makes the most of each and every second of its run time. The winsome Jessica Felice (SoulMate: True Evil Never Dies, 2012) plays Jessie, a woman caught in the timelessness between the here and the hereafter. We first see Jessie as she strolls aimlessly through a cemetery, weaving, almost flowing her way between graves in a long black gown. In a soft, surreal and lyrical monologue and voice-over, Jessie wonders about the limbo she inhabits. As she frequents a particular grave, presumably hers, she attempts to communicate with loved ones at the gravesite, but none can see nor hear her. Through flashbacks delivered as dreamlike reveries, we learn the events which brought Jessie to her current state of existence.
Laid to Rest is a film in which every aspect perfectly fits and supports its dreamlike feel. The story is expertly told as key points are released through careful visual reveals. What begins as an almost surrealistic monologue by Jessie, gradually transforms to true horror, all while maintaining the film’s overarching tone of the weird and the fantastic.
Valdes’ elegiac script uses poetic language to set the emotional tenor, one that is reinforced and amplified by Shawn Anthony’s cinematography. Sharp, vivid colors intermixed with neutral colored soft- or out-of-focus shots emphasize the uncertainty and ambiguity of Jessie’s existence. Frederic Mauerhofer’s haunting, yet simple, score is extremely effective at evoking an eerie sense of displacement of time and space and again, perfectly supports the film’s story. The sound design is clear and bold or soft and lyrical as needed to support the story. The practical effects of Meg and Jeffrey Scott hit the right note as well
Jessica Felice is on screen at least 90% of the film and her performance is another key piece in the success of Laid to Rest. Jessie is in turn confused, frustrated, distraught, sly, and wails in despair. Ms. Felice again impresses as she did in SoulMate: True Evil Never Dies.
It is a joy to come across a film in which all the parts – script, direction, cinematography, acting, effects, score, and sound – meld together so well. Nothing is out of place. Nothing distracts. Everything supports the filmmakers’ vision. Kudos to the cast and crew of Laid to Rest for the experience they have created in this truly fine independent production.