Julien Neaves – Editor
Take a cellphone, add a flashlight and stir in a hefty mix of talent and you end up with 19, an almost three-minute horror film (it’s 2.54 if you’re being pedantic) about two people during this very familiar time of covid-19 quarantine. It is directed by Trinidad and Tobago-born filmmaker Steven M. Taylor (Buck The Man Spirit) and stars his wife Rheem C. Taylor (A Mother’s Story, The Desperate Tale of Ralph). The Taylors are also producers on the short while Navid Lancaster did the score and sound design. I am keeping this review spoiler free so I will not get into the plot; I am also providing a link to the film below so you can watch it for yourself.
So how do you make something scary in just three minutes? You don’t have time to fully establish characters, relationships, back stories or lore. What 19 smartly does is focus on atmosphere, and boy is it creepy in here. For sound the silence is unsettling, the sound effects unnerving and the score an effective assault on the senses. For lighting there are three grades: the bright, almost sterile white light; the ominous half-light of the camera phone illumination; and finally the barely illuminated darkness where there are quick flashes of images (I realised upon my second viewing that I had missed something the first time).
For narrative structure the film borrows from horror tropes old and new: the less-seen-is-more approach of Psycho (actor/director Che Rodriguez also made the Psycho comparison in his Facebook review) and one particular shot which may be an homage; and the phone-as-weapon device perfected in the Scream franchise. But the film also relies on the shared experience of the quarantine and the inherent isolation and paranoia. This is a wise choice as once the term “quarantine” is used you have all the built-in context and setting that you need.
Taylor must also be praised for the restraint shown both visually and narratively. A more amateur director would have jumped straight into things and beaten you over the head with what was happening. Taylor is content to allow the tension to simmer until it comes to a boil. I will say there is a particular shot that is slightly indulgent but I will not take off too many marks for it. Overall 19 is a testament to what very creative people can do with very limited resources, proof that you can tell a compelling story in a very short space of time, and strong evidence that Taylor et al need to do a feature-length horror film.
Score: 8 out of 10
You can view the film for yourself here and feel free to share it around:
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Julien Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. Also loves promoting Caribbean film, creating board games and is an aspiring author. Says things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Can also be found talking about TV and movie stuff on Instagram as redmanwriter and on Facebook at Movieville