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By Alan Ng | March 16, 2023

I still have nightmares about unfinished papers and unprepared exams from my college days oh so long ago. Writer-director Abie Sidell plays on those academic fear in the late-night horror short Cram.

Marc (John Dimino) is a mess as finals week rolls around. The classic procrastination is suffering from massive writer’s block trying to finish/start his final. After his frustrated friends leave him to his own devices, Marc decides to pull an all-nighter at the university library to cram to complete his paper. As exhaustion wears on Marc, he dozes off and awakens alone in the darkened library, but is he alone?

Cram brings all the cinematic elements of the haunted house genre into the college library. This simple tale has spirits, blood, gory images, and the blurring of reality and horror. What Sidell does so well is take the simple idea of an all-nighter session in college and turn it into a horror story. Like any good genre offering, it’s all about the steady progression of a mystery until the big reveal and the inclusion of thrills and terrors throughout the film.

“…dozes off and awakens alone in the darkened library, but is he alone?”

Sidell makes excellent use of sound, lighting, and special effects. Speaking of sound, the use of the soundtrack is quite brilliant. This is clearly Sidell’s attempt to make a traditional horror film on an independent level; he clearly understands and is a fan of the genre.

My only complaint is that the film is slow and sometimes feels labored. I’m not saying that picking up the pace is the answer, but there are times when the action and horror need to slow down. Identifying those moments and speeding up the scenes that serve as mere exposition is the trick to excellent pacing. In addition, some of the edits, mainly when there’s a jump from one location to the next, need work.

Abie Sidell’s Cram is a short film that packs a horror punch. The filmmaker ably brings mystery and thrills to his tale. As an indie filmmaker, I’m pretty sure Sidell has something much bigger down the pike.

Cram (2023)

Directed and Written: Abie Sidell

Starring: John Dimino, Brandon E. Burton, Rolando Chushan, Carolina Đỗ, etc.

Movie score: 7.5/10

Cram Image

"…short film that packs a horror punch."

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