Short films in the thriller/horror category follow a fairly straightforward structure. It all begins with a slow reveal uncovering the real plot of the story. Often warning us that things are not as they seem. After the slow reveal, comes the ending, like the punch line of a joke with emphasis on the word “punch.” The finish either works by tying all the elements of the reveal together in some satisfying manner or the ending swings and misses in a rally of confounding confusion.
In Chris Cronin’s short thriller Oscar’s Bell, a divorced father, Duncan (Paul Bullion) is camping in a clearing next to a dense forest at night with his son (Rio Walker) and dog, Oscar (Anti). Sitting by the campfire, Duncan finishes a call with his ex-wife, who is worried that her son isn’t safe out in the middle of nowhere.
As things go in the woods in the dead of night, a passing wind gives the illusion something’s out there, that is unless something really is out there. As his son sleeps in the tent, the quiet solitude plays a few tricks with Duncan’s mind. It’s not just you hearing things in the dark, but it’s your dog too. As dogs will do, they run off as their curiosity is piqued at the slightest sound. Thank goodness, there’s a bell on that damn dog’s collar.
“As things go in the woods in the dead of night, a passing wind gives the illusion something’s out there…”
The reveal of Oscar’s Bell is a slow burn, but thankfully interestingly shot. There’s something in the woods. What is it? How dangerous is it? Is the dog safe? A lot of time is spent making the point and much of it is about building suspense…creepy suspense. Much of which plays in your head rather than on screen.
Then there’s the ending, which would be foolish of me to drop any specifics. As mentioned before, there’s a punch and a pretty good one too. Like a good thriller, it sort of sneaks up on you. Though, the truly obsessed horror fan may figure it out mere moments before it happens.
Cronin tells a sweet-and-simple tale of fear. It’s a decent thriller with a few tame jump scares. The soundtrack’s strings sound like fingernails on a chalkboard also enhances the thrills. Oscar’s Bell is definitely worth the twelve minutes to watch and make a nice addition to your horror/thriller shorts festival.
Oscar’s Bell (2018) Written and directed by Chris Cronin. Starring Paul Bullion, Rio Walker, Coral Sinclair.
7 out of 10 stars