‘Heartless’ is a Nonlinear Update to Poe
*This review was written upon request of the production team of ‘Heartless’ all opinions are my own
I enjoy short horror films. They don’t waste time, and the scares are always good. Sure, there are some bad ones out there, but all-in-all we should support all the short horror filmmakers in the world.
‘Heartless’ is a 2018 horror short written and directed by Kevin Sluder. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the short has been making its rounds in the festival circuit, as well as several of our fellow horror blogs–many giving it high ratings. It’s not hard to see why: ‘Heartless’ is a fast-paced thriller with all the blood and guts you could want.
The movie is an updated take on the Edgar Allan Poe short story ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ so if you’re a Poe fan and love kick-ass female leads, this is definitely a short you’ll want to see.
Stacy Snyder was fantastic as Shelby–our main character–and her facial expressions sold me on her character. She does crazy well, and she should take that as a compliment. Had the actress in the lead role not been good at facial expressions this short may not have worked.
I also enjoyed Matt Mercer as Sexist Office Douche. He was hilarious, which is weird because I thought he was a whiny bitch in Contracted and Contracted 2: Electric Boogaloo. He’s terrible, but he’s just charming enough for me to laugh at him rather than get mad. And it’s something a lot of women in business will go through, not every sexist coworker is the condescending asshole–it can be the guy making jokes at your expense while thinking he’s the funniest guy in the room.
The other characters were just there for the kill count, which is okay–it’s a short film, I don’t expect the director and writer to take the time to flesh out every character on the screen just to kill them off. They were there to put on the gore makeup and look dead, which they did well.
‘Heartless’ is told nonlinear, beginning with our protagonist getting ready for a big presentation and flashing back to The Incident that happened the night before. And, to be honest, the nonlinear aspect of the story is what weakened the movie for me. Now, I am a fan of nonlinear stories (I’m writing one myself), but I’m not sure it works in a film where you have a limited amount of time to establish your characters, conflicts, and resolve them.
If this were a longer form movie, then it would have worked better as the flashbacks would have served to build tension throughout the film. Instead, I think it hurt the pacing in what might have really worked as a slow-paced chiller–which is what I was expecting from a Poe-inspired story.
The only reason it might work is because of the story it’s based on: ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ by Edgar Allan Poe. The short story is told from the point of view of the killer, meaning we can see what he sees and read his thoughts. The audience is in his mind as he slowly starts to lose it.
We don’t have that privilege in movies, so the filmmakers have to use camera angles and editing to show the audience what’s happening in a character’s head. So, in that sense, I don’t hate the non-linear storytelling because it does help convey her state of mind as she’s haunted by the ghost of her friend.
What it comes down to is what the director and writer do with this story. It’s clear they wanted to do a gory, updated version of the horror story we all read in eighth grade English.
The best part of this whole production was the gore and the kills. They were quick, they were brutal, and there was plenty of blood for all you gore whores out there.
The only thing that really threw me off production-wise was the choice to use a screamo song for the opening and closing credits. I’m not anti-metal, and horror and metal go hand-in-hand, but I just wasn’t expecting it, so I was a little taken aback.
We’ve all been in a place where we’re so stressed about a presentation we murder our partner in cold blood.
Well, maybe not literally.
But giving a presentation when you feel like you can never do anything right is pretty damn stressful and terrifying.
And you know… Death by muffin is something we can all relate to. (can I get a gif of that plz?)