Switch (Short Film)

I saw Switch at last Summer’s FrightFest in Leicester Square, London. It is one of those works of horror cinema which, brief as it is, renews your hope in the future of the genre. It is guerrilla film-making in the spirit of the 1970’s, the mantle of Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter et al has been taken up.

 I’m a big fan of the “short” format for horror generally, it’s fun to see what talented (often up-and-coming) directors can do in 5 to 15 minutes of screen time. As the viewer, you know that you are going to get to the pay-off quickly, it’s the shot of tequila to the feature length pint of beer. As such, this review will contain more spoilers than are usual on Transgressive Cinema (and it will also be short!). Spoilers shouldn’t be a problem, Switch is doing the festival circuit and should be available online soon so there is plenty of opportunity to see it.

 Melanie Light takes the helm of Switch in her directorial debut, graduating as she does from previous roles such as Artistic Director and Production Designer in other projects. This artistic background shows in the composition of Switch, from the perspectives and shots used to the incorporation of the snow-hit UK to the benefit of the film. The decision to hurriedly shoot (and I believe re-shoot) to capitalise on the snowy landscape was as bold as it was effective. Blood on snow looks great, it was a good call! It also lends an insular feel to the film which greatly aided the necessarily rapid creation of atmosphere in the limited screen time available.

The most refreshing thing for me about Switch was that it was the genuine grassroots horror that I have a great affection for. It didn’t play for laughs or wink self-referentially, but it was clever without trying too hard. Perhaps “clever” is the wrong word, it was sly.

 The opening moments set the scene with a female jogger attracting the attention of a passing motorist who, it becomes clear to us, is an opportunist murderer – perhaps worse. Our predator follows her into some snow-filled woodland, where the jogger is set-up as the standard female victim that Hollywood and mainstream-horror has slaughtered a thousand times over. Clearly exasperated, the killer loses the trail of his prey only to find out suddenly and brutally that he is on the receiving end of one of the best reversals of fortune since I Spit On Your Grave (the original – or that wouldn’t be very long!).

 Switch looks bleak, and it feels bleak – at first. I think it works so well because both the landscape and the premise we think we are going to see play out is depressing. The conclusion is, despite its violence, wonderfully uplifting! As the crimson blood colours the drab of the winter forest, the viewer’s despondency ebbs away – cheering on the heroine and rejoicing in being spared another formulaic murder by set piece. As we do, we ask ourselves unanswered questions as to the motives and back-story of this woman.

As previously mentioned, short films are a quick shot of celluloid enjoyment – it is difficult to read too much into them, they cannot have the depth of a feature. However, they are excellent at showcasing new talent and with Melanie Light’s artistic vision and obvious love of the genre, I do hope that her full-length debut is not too far away.

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