SHORT FILM REVIEWS
(Directed by Jeremiah Kipp)
Director Jeremiah Kipp is a busy man. A cursory glance at his credits on IMDB will attest to that. Genre fans may be familiar with some of the shorts he has made over the past decade or so and those based in the UK may best know him as the writer/director of Slapface (2021), which was undoubtedly one of the best films of this year's Frightfest festival. It's a film that was based on a short of the same name that was made back in 2018 and it explores themes of family, trauma and the supernatural. A triumvirate that are all on display in his latest short film, Siren. It all opens with a troubled middle-aged man calling his daughter Kelli (Erica Logsdon) from his living room, a bottle of whisky and the white noise of a TV his only company. He says three words to her and three words only; 'Don't come here'. He proceeds to grab a handgun and turns it on himself, to the utter horror of his daughter on the other end of the line. It's then we realise that he's not alone. There's someone else there with him, silhouetted against the fuzzing whiteness of the television. Flash forward a few days and Kelli hasn't heeded his warning and arrives to sort things out at the house after her father's funeral. She's not alone at least, her boyfriend (Joseph Sanchez) is there for moral support and it becomes a family reunion of sorts when Kelli's brother (Dillon Lau) also arrives. But why did her father warn her not to go to the house and who was the mysterious figure with him when he took his own life? Don't worry, they'll all find out soon enough...
Short movies aren't blessed with the fortune of enough time to comprehensively explore their characters, themes and plot. They operate to a different structure and set of rules and trying to convey the essence of a story is perhaps the ultimate aim of most films under twenty minutes. Saying that, Sirens is perfectly happy to withhold as much as it possibly can. What's the point in trying to cram too much exposition and backstory in when you've got so little time after all? Rather than get bogged down in the details, Kipp opts for a more measured approach, letting us fill in some of the blanks ourselves. The emphasis instead is placed on mood. Sparse dialogue and a lack of score means that it all feels quite pensive although the almost continuous low pitched droning and shots that linger a second or two more than normal help conjure a quiet sense of unease throughout. And even though it is set during daylight hours, there's an obscurity to the cinematography from Christopher Bye that adds to that sense of disquiet. It may be sunny outside but inside, our characters are shrouded in shadows and murk. Thematically, we do not delve too deeply into the fractured relationship of our central characters, aside from a few clues early on. Family disintegration is a subject that has been explored in the genre for decades (dare you cast your minds back to films such as Hereditary) and at its heart, it's what Siren is all about too. A supernatural force wreaking havoc on a normal American family.
The classical scholar Walter Copeland Perry once made the following observation about the myth of sirens; 'Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.' It's a sentiment that Kipp's film echoes in spades. We have no real idea by the closing images how it came to be or where it came from. Was it birthed from the grief caused by the death of the matriarch? Has it always existed inside the house? Who knows, we aren't given all the answers and that's just fine with us.