In twenty short minutes, directors Gia-Rayne Harris and Joshua Zev Nathan create more atmosphere and tension than most studio flicks dream of with Cairn. Screenwriter Anna Vecellio sets the stage simply but elegantly. The tightly wound plot slowly twists until it must erupt. Then comes the shocking conclusion, which speaks to the themes of mistrust and paranoia at play.
Ada (Nyree Neil) is a groundskeeper for a palatial estate in rural Georgia. When Wyatt (Spencer Watson) and friends Cole (Joseph Stromberg), Autumn (Erica Janey), Danielle (Chara Kirkland), and Liam (Danny Breslin) go to the house for a fun time, things get out of hand. So out of hand, in fact, that Ada becomes certain she sees someone burying a body. Is that what’s really happening, or is the frenzy of everyone being there making her see things?
“…Ada becomes certain she sees someone burying a body.”
Cairn is an unsettling watch from start to finish. The house, even before it’s overrun with people, is eerie. The grounds are enormous, and the mood is on edge from the jump. The co-directors make excellent use of the long shots around unseen corners to maximum effectiveness. The cinematography is stunning, capturing the eerie stillness and beauty of the setting.
The cast is good, but the film belongs to Neil. Her conviction of what she saw is raw, even when the filmmakers intentionally obscure what’s happening. During a tense conversation with a “friend,” she is so believably frightened that what comes next makes total sense.
Cairn is a fine example to all independent filmmakers out there on how to craft style and atmosphere on a budget. The lead actor is incredible, and the ending is both shocking and makes total sense. Do not miss this.
Cairn screened at the 2023 Davey Fest.
"…the film belongs to Neil."