By midlandsmovies, Mar 30 2020 08:25AM
Directed by L.J. 'Stark' Greenwood
What lurks in the forest at night is a question posed in the opening of new short horror film Snarl from L.J. Stark Greenwood.
Well we find out as the chirping of crickets dies down and we stumble upon a half-naked man (Jay Podmore as Elijah) chained and tortured in a cave-dwelling. The man conducting this horridness is called Clyde (Troy Dennison) and accuses him of being a “devil”.
Two local villagers (Charlie Clarke as Faye and Jack Knight as Benjamin) wait for the torturer to leave before ignoring the “no trespassing” sign. They sneak in and seek to comfort and release the abused man who by now is covered in cuts and bruises.
The film is well shot and the story beats easy to understand in Snarl. The script is clear but delivered in a slightly Hammer-inspired way. The archaic dialogue with its hints of Victorian prose harks back to classic gothic literature. I hope this is deliberate as no one speaks like these characters do in real life that's for sure.
With the villagers and their rescued man now on the run, Clyde returns to find his captive gone and a chase ensues in the woods. Stumbling through the undergrowth, they attempt to flee but the injuries are taking their toll on their progress.
Low budget films tend to film in places with easy access (i.e. the woods). And horror action tends to be “chasing”. When these two are overdone you can far too often see these being overused with huge swathes of a short’s time being eaten up by that action in that location. However, although it edges close for a moment, Snarl thankfully ends just the right side of this horror trope. But does veer that way for a moment.
What doesn’t work so well is day-for-night shooting. The appearance of a full moon at the start hints on the horrors about to take place after sunset, but a blue filter appears to stand in for proper night-time shooting. This makes the film feel like it’s taking place in the less-than-scary early evening. A small point granted, but one that could have been altered for some more darkly visceral scares.
However, things turn worse later when Elijah reveals his true self - SPOILER - in the form of a werewolf. The low budget has forced Snarl to show very little of the transformation but, as so often with horror, it’s about the fear of what you don’t see, not what you do.
But the influence of the classic wolf shapeshifting in An American Werewolf in London is clear to see and the effects and make-up used are very impressive and filmed well.
Snarl ends then by playing on the thrill and the fear of the unknown and the short’s bloody atmosphere is one of constant dread. If a little too long given its content and narrative for me personally, what is shown is the filmmaker’s passion for classic retro horror beats with a love for the genre - as well as some excellent artistry from the make-up department.