John’s Horror Corner: Shallow Water (2017), Independent Short Film Review.
MY CALL: Stan Winston (Pumpkinhead) showed us how great it can be when a creature creator helms a creature feature, and here Sandy Collora wants to do the same. I was pleased with his effort and would love to see a feature length spawn from this. MORE Indie Reviews: Here at MFF we occasionally do horror short film and pre-release indie film reviews on request. Among recent solicited promotions are Order of the Ram (2013; short film), Love in the Time of Monsters (2014; feature length), Interior (2014; feature length), Smothered (2014; feature length), In the Dark (2015; feature length), Trailer Talk: The Void, TRAILER TALK: Blood Money, Short Film Buzz: Burn (2016; press release), Brother (2016; short film), the indie techno-horror Other Halves (2016; feature length), and Scythe (2016; short film)
Disclaimer: This review was solicited by the filmmakers after I was issued a free digital copy for supporting their Kickstarter Campaign. However, my opinion remains unbiased as I was neither hired nor paid to produce this critical review, nor do I have an investment stake in the film.
This 18-minute short film drops us at would normally be the 70-minute mark in a 90-minute movie—basically, the final segment of a feature length film. Our final girl is being chased through the rainy forest by a monstrous bipedal amphibious humanoid; essentially a more modernly designed Creature from the Black Lagoon. She clearly knows what she’s dealing with already and it becomes readily apparent that all her friends (or, other people in the area who could help) are all already dead.
The acting was fine but had no line-delivery—just a woman (Lisa Roumain; Avatar) desperately running scared. But the camera work was on point, featuring great shots of our forest setting, as well as some slow-motion boob-running for, you know, the people who just enjoy some slow-motion boob-running in a wet tank top. What I noticed most was how water (in all forms) always appeared crisply attended.
The creature effect is a rubber monster suit, which some may want to dismiss outright just upon hearing that detail. But it is done well and it is the very purpose of this short film! When we first get a good look at it (4:45 on the running time), we see its reptilian eye-slip covers blink and its misshapen pupil dilates. This was absolutely not half-assed! I rewound about 5 times to watch the think blink and focus its eyes. A lot of attention was also afforded to the sounds the creature would make. I liked that. It’s all in the details. When we see the monster again we learn more about it—it has dorsal nostrils something like a whale’s blowhole atop its head. I thought it looked great! Dungeons and Dragons fans, I think, will especially enjoy this monster. It reminds me of the Sahaguin or Deep Ones, appearing as aquatic lizard men with all manner of gashes, scars, coral, hooks and bits of fishnetting adorning its scale-armored body.
The filmmakers also had some fun with the gore. I was reminded of the kitchen table butchering scene in Wrong Turn (2003) at one point, and I liked the aquatic zoological touch of having fiddler crabs scavenging en masse on a brutally gored cadaver.
This film was almost entirely composed of typical horror tropes and I don’t care. I don’t consider this a negative criticism; only an observation. Sometimes we want something formulaic yet well-made, and that’s what this is. I’d really like to see a feature length version of this. We don’t have much out there harkening back to The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)—except for, maybe, Creature (2011) or Humanoids from the Deep (1980), which I enjoyed despite their overt badness—and I feel we could use some more! Director and creature designer Sandy Collora has done well.