I haven’t checked, but I must gush about short films every time I review one. Short films, especially in the horror genre, must be concise in nature. Filmmakers have anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to effectively tell a story. This leaves little time for characterization, forcing the focus to be a condensed tale of terror. Filmmakers, Daniel Brown and Kate McMeans, the pair responsible for writing and directing ‘The First Step‘ obviously get it.
The film begins with a family moving into a new house, an often used horror backdrop that lends itself well to the genre. In the right hands, a short film, even without the benefit of characterization or three separate acts, can creep viewers out with ease. A little perceived blood in the opening scenes went a long way, kick-starting my horror film hyper-awareness. What starts as a mundane act, quickly ramps into critical mass. Sara (Payton Walker) makes a quick trip to the basement to help her Mother (Karla Shantz) prepare dinner. Among the freshly packed boxes and dark, something else lurks, and it knows Sara’s name.
I found ‘The First Step’ to be a an effective and fun film. The Cellar Dweller in the basement, portrayed by Jo Anna Van Thuyne, was far creepier than most short film monsters, and left me trying to figure exactly what the hell it was. The combination of practical effects and Thuyne’s creepy gait made me scared for poor Sara. Not content to build fear from just the visuals, the audio was a perfect touch. The sound can only be describes as a mix of creaking doors and skittering insects – spooky for sure.
I found the film to be well crafted and acted, with my only criticism is directed toward Karla Shantz, who I found a little clunky and guilty of overacting such a simple scene. Both Walker and Thuyne were great, the set-up and direction were excellent. I love when horror directors find those amazing angles that beautiful homes often afford. In a nutshell, ‘The First Step‘ is a spooky horror short that plays on common fears like a pro. Check the basement before you go to bed. Kudos to all involved.
The film is still making the festival rounds and has no firm release date.