A Knock at the Door (2017)

I am rapidly becoming more convinced that female writers, directors, and female-driven subjects will end up being a major force in the development of the horror genre. This has become increasingly apparent with a spate of fairly recent releases, as women carve out their niche is what has been a male-centric and dominated genre. At the NewFilmakers LA festival this month, female directors have taken a front seat with a showcase of films. One of these is the short A Knock at the Door, written and directed by Katrina Rennells and Wendie Weldon, and produced by Kelley Mack.

A Knock at the Door is an unsolved mystery of sorts, telling in its scant eight minutes the story of Nick (Drew Jenkins), who comes home one evening and hears a terrifying scream from next door. The next instant, Sara (Mack) knocks on his door with an explanation that Nick (and the viewer) doesn’t exactly buy.

A Knock at the Door has a twisted spirit that would serve it well as a full-length feature – in fact, its one major flaw is its length, which limits its story to the barest details and offers little exposition in what we see. Still, for its shortness, it manages to ramp up the tension very quickly, via quick cuts and disturbing sound cues played over otherwise innocuous moments. Like many contemporary horror films, A Knock at the Door creates a cyclical story based in a suburban setting, the threat being the people that surround you every day. Just what is happening to Nick – and why – is never fully elucidated, but the film doesn’t burden itself with attempting to offer explanations for the inexplicable. Nor does it rely on jump scares or gore to make its point; flashes of horror and subtle, unfinished moments are all it needs.

Nevertheless, I found myself wishing that this was a full length feature rather than a short. One would hope that Rennells, Weldon, et al will make further forays into full length horror films. What the film certainly reinforces is that female writers and directors are damn good at horror.

So, watch out for A Knock at the Door. There’s something very interesting going on here.

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