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Cameo (15)

Director: Ryan G. Kelly
Screenplay: Ryan G. Kelly, Emily Yelverton

Starring: Sarah Schoofs, Gregg Prosser, Casey Landman

Review: RJ Bland

There's something special about October for a lot of us horror fans. Of course, it all feels like one big build up to Halloween, which is undoubtedly the pinnacle of the calendar year for people like us. But with the temperature dropping, the nights drawing in and the leaves starting to fall, it really does feel like spooky season has already begun. At this time of year, there are particular types of genre movies that feel more fitting than most. Revenge flicks and alien movies are all good and well, but right now you just can't beat a bit of the supernatural can you? Whether that be ghosts or demons or witches or...curses; a theme that Ryan Kelly's award-winning short film Cameo explores.


Cameo tells the story of Rebecca (Sarah Schoofs), a young PhD student, who is feeling the pressure of her studies. Whilst she loses herself in her research in the college library, her boyfriend Steve (Gregg Prosser) attempts to offer some support and a little perspective on her situation. However, after Steve leaves off and she continues to look at her books, it's clear that Rebecca is mentally exhausted. She's on the edge. Once home, she tries to unwind in front of the television with a glass of wine but she can't even find solace there, with local news reporting on the tragic death of another local student. Rebecca doesn't have time to dwell on the tragedy though as there is a knock at the door. Although there is no one there when she opens it, someone (or some thing) has left a little present for her – an oval necklace with a portrait of a woman on (otherwise known as a cameo). Thinking it's a present from Steve, Rebecca puts the necklace on...but things soon start to get weird.


Short movies are a rather different kettle of fish to their feature-length cousins. Structure, plot, narrative, characters all have to be adapted to fit. It's the equivalent of a short story in an anthology book. And although it's impossible to become quite as engrossed in this medium, short films give up-and-coming film-makers the chance to showcase their talents as well as perhaps offering up a concept that could translate into something more substantial. You only have to look at the success of films like Smile (2022) and Light's Out (2016) – which were both based on short films - to see how valuable they can be. That's very much the case here with Director Ryan Kelly and co-writer/producer Emily Yelverton, who are already working on an expanded script. It seems like a worthwhile project too, as Cameo is an assured piece of film-making, with an accomplished cast and it serves up enough intrigue and chills to whet the appetite for more.


Whilst seemingly a straightforward story about a cursed object (and who doesn't love a cursed object movie?), it feels as if we are only touching the surface of a deeper and more troubling mythology. Rather than spilling the beans on every aspect of the plot, there is a sense of opaqueness at play and we are instead invited to speculate and ponder after the closing credits roll. The fact that the whole thing is shot on an iPhone is not only a financially savvy decision, but the muted tones and lack of depth give it a certain level of chilliness and fits well with the mental state of our lead. We're all so used to how reality looks through the lens of our phones nowadays, so it has that sense of uncanny familiarity too. The ominous (almost folky) score by Holly Amber Church helps to maintain the quiet sense of menace throughout without being overbearing. Quite often, low budget indie efforts are let down by generic stock music but the quality of the music and sound design make for a more refined viewing experience.


Sarah Schoofs is virtually in every scene and her earnest performance is the heartbeat of the film, whilst Greg Prosser puts in a solid turn as her supportive boyfriend. The antagonists here are nicely designed too. Some may feel that the whole thing might be a little more sinister if they weren't on-screen quite so much at the climax but hey, this is a short film and the payoffs are usually delivered in a more uncompromising manner. The most important thing is that by the end, we are left wanting more. Which is always a good way for a short movie to sign off.

Although barely over ten minutes in length, Cameo is a confidently directed horror short that manages to summon  enough of an atmosphere and sense of mythos to warrant further exploration. Fingers crossed, we get it.
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