Short films are a very specific artform and a difficult one to master. Some short fllms have so much to say but in such little time that the end result is a convoluted mess. Other short films feel more like a ‘Coming Attractions’ trailer than a real self-contained story. And then there are short films that either blast their way at you like music videos or, regardless of their genre, feel like they’ve been designed by a stand-up comedian with a set-up, a middle bit and a punchline.

Melbourne-based directors Chris and Robert Smellin asked ‘Movie Ramblings’ to review two films they have made that are currently doing well on the international festival circuit. Each film is a quarter of an hour long, very elegantly shot, with not a single bad performance amongst them. They are both DP’d by James Beilharz who obviously knows how to make an ultra-small budget look more substantial than it is and it’s easy to see why they have been received so well by audiences. I enjoyed them both but one film in particular is a stand-out.

The stand-out is ‘She’s Having a Baby’, a creepy little two-hander starring Wendy Bos and Thomas Clifopoulos. After the camera slow-crawls across a wall covered in reproductive charts and the photographs and statistics of various fertile men, Simon wakes up in an anonymous bedroom, tied to the bed by his wrists and ankles.

When the Woman appears in the hallway, dragging another tied-up body out of the adjoining bedroom, Simon screams at her to let him go. She doesn’t let him go. She cuts the tendons at the back of his ankles and tells him she will be ovulating in a week so he should keep his strength up.

Wendy Bos is fabulous and fearless as the Woman. She is creepy, tender, unbalanced and entirely convincing and it is good to see a solidly performed, three-dimensional female villain for a change, especially one who has an agenda that actually makes some kind of sympathetic sense.

The only issue I had with ‘She’s Having a Baby’ – which is the same issue I have with the second film, ‘Zero’ – is that they both follow that ‘set-up, middle bit, punchline’ formula which means we can guess the ending pretty much as soon as the films start. There are no surprises but there are inevitable conclusions, which is a little bit of a pity given how stylishly both films are put together.

What I can tell you is that if you have seen ‘Misery’, ‘She’s Having a Baby’ will ring a lot of bells but, I’d rather be tortured by Wendy Bos than Kathy Bates.

The second film, ‘Zero’, is only slightly weaker but still a stand-out compared to a lot of other shorts I’ve seen.

Alice stands in her suburban kitchen wearing a bio suit and breathing mask while something nasty and blood-soaked writhes, snarling, in the bedroom.

At a family conference, Alice tells her sister what has happened. Their young son caught some kind of disease which has turned him into a zombie complete with a very convincing rotted-away jawline and now Alice needs her sister’s help to do something she doesn’t want to do.

There are five actors in the cast. I couldn’t identify any of them individually apart from Lisa Treloar (who, as Alice, is impressive) but they all give nicely judged performances that somehow avoid becoming silly and melodramatic even though the characters must have had some doubts about Alice’s tying-her-son-to-the-bed strategy. Those knots looked a little too loose for comfort.

It also has to be said that some squelchy, nasty and bitey sound effects, coupled with Ali Knapton’s very clever sfx make-up on the zombie boy, do a lot to assist. As does Luke Goldfinch’s minimalistic musical score, which is reminiscent of very early Cronenberg.

Again, the film’s only real failings lie in the ‘we’ve seen this all before’ storyline and the entirely predictable ending (which almost takes too long to get there) but – just like ‘She’s Having a Baby’ – it’s worth taking the ride because the Smellin brothers and their team do some excellent work and are obviously filmmakers to watch out for in the future.

Apparently they are currently working on their first feature film, another genre story, and I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing it.

Short Film Review: She's Having A Baby/Zero
A brace of films that pack a punch and mark out the directors as ones to watch
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

About The Author

Ian White is an author, screenwriter and journalist. His book ‘Witchcraft and Black Magic in British Cult Cinema’ was recently published by Hemlock and he is a regular contributor to ‘Paranormal Underground’ and ‘Starburst’ magazines. He’s currently writing a new book and screenplay and his embarrassingly out-of-date website can be found at http://ianwhitelondon.wix.com/ian-white