At first glance, Kevin Powis’ short film The Killin’ almost seems like a cliche, the sort of short film every fool with a camcorder decides to make after learning how to operate it for the first time. However, given the chance, both director and film prove up to the task of showcasing something entertaining as well as skillfully assembled. It begins with two characters – James and Becky, discussing a horror film (either Ringu or The Ring) in the woods. Their friend Todd soon joins them for the walk home. It is during this walk through the increasingly darkening woods that we learn that the date happens to be the three-year anniversary of a local killing. With this pall of gloom over the proceedings, James and Becky continue on through the woods, but Todd refuses to travel by such a route. For their part, James and Becky have an unexpected encounter with a fourth person before the film is over, but things don’t end up the way most people will expect.
For a short film, The Killin’ is packed with an amazing level of characterization. James, Becky and Todd and are so convincingly and thoroughly brought to life that you will swear that you have known people exactly like them. From the subtle nuances that hint at a darker side to Todd, to the realistic banter exchanged amongst the trio, they come across as more “real” than many characters in the latest overglossed, undernourished Hollywood horror effort. The cast of characters is rounded out by “the man in the woods,” who also manages turn in an effective, albeit subdued performance. Toss in unpretentious dialogue that both serves the narrative as well as references cinematic horror staples, and you have a story that manages to never be dull. Then again, with less that ten minutes of running time, it’s not too hard to accomplish.
Powis’ direction shows a keen understanding of the horror genre and he makes excellent use of his camera to bring the single setting to life. Many times a director opts for odd camera angles to help instill a sense of “wrongness” to scene’s mood. More often than not such attempts only serve to distract from the story. Here, Powis keeps such devices to a bare minimum, but there is still one great moment when an inventive use of the camera helps set up a “scare” moment. While the tension is never too high, I found myself engrossed to the point where I did expect something or someone to jump out at any given moment…and that is the sign of good filmmaking. I would very much like to see what Powis could accomplish with a longer film.
You can view this film online at http://www.lastindependent.com.