The Betrayal (2015) and Earworm (2016)
The Betrayal and Earworm, included in the Phantasmagoria program of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival this year, are among the shortest and most effective horror shorts I’ve come across yet.
Susan Young’s The Betrayal comes in at only five minutes, telling a rapid-fire story of medical violence and control through quick, almost single frame flashes of court case files and doctor’s notes. A woman comes to her doctor after being assaulted by her husband, only to come under the doctor’s control as he prescribes a series of drugs that she becomes increasingly dependent on. The flashing images and eerie, overlapping voiceover ramps up a sense of dread while creating character with minimal interference. It’s a sharp and nasty story, told brilliantly.
Earworm, meanwhile, is a tight and humorous little thriller, also coming at just about five minutes, and directed by Tara Price. A man awakens suddenly in the middle of the night with music blaring in his ear. He becomes increasingly distressed as he’s unable to sleep when the music suddenly blasts on at random intervals. What happens next is both disgusting and, in the end, quite funny.
Both films push the viewer into close proximity with the lead characters, focalizing through their experiences to create horrific experiences of the strange and even the mundane. The Betrayal doesn’t even feature on-screen actors, relying instead on pure cinematic renderings of images and sounds that shove the viewer into the position of the beleagured, assaulted woman. Earworm is the more linear of the two, but the sudden blasts of music and the man’s anguished screams lends terror to the narrative, focalizing through the lead. This is what horror cinema is all about – torturing your audience.
Both The Betrayal and Earworm are showing at Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.