f r e d is written and directed by Alexander Jeremy and follows Lily (Susie Kimnell) as she’s drowning in grief, having recently lost her partner, James. She’s desperately struggling to regain some sense of normalcy in her life, but unable to move on from the tragic loss. Then Fred (Samuel Woodhams), an old friend of James, enters Lily’s life. Together they commiserate over their shared loss, finding solace in a budding friendship. Fred becomes a stabilizing force in her life, helping Lily to see a way forward, out of despair. The only problem is that Fred might not have her best interests at heart.
Is f r e d a drama? A thriller? Or perhaps horror film? Maybe a mystery? A musical? The answer to all of that is yes. It is a difficult story to define and more difficult to summarize. Indeed, a lot happens, but in the end, you find yourself with more questions than answers. I don’t really know what Jeremy was trying to accomplish with his short, but I do know that f r e d is a mesmerizing experience that I had difficulty turning away from.
My biggest problem with the movie is the title. From the title alone, you might get this 27-minute long film confused with the Nickelodeon property starring YouTuber Lucas Cruikshank. And yes, they are as vastly different projects as you are imagining. The other problem is the cinematography. Some outdoor night shots are a little difficult to make out. But honestly, those are my only problems.
“…Fred might not have her best interests at heart.”
Susie Kimnell, as Lily, is understated and heartbreaking as a woman barely keeping herself together. As Fred, Samuel Woodhams is lively and kinetic. He’s a bouncing ray of sunshine but still somehow terrifying. The thing is that he doesn’t even do anything remotely menacing or dangerous in the whole film. But somehow, in the context of the short, he comes off as a malevolent force. When Fred suddenly dances through the village, you are filled with a sense of unease at his fiendish glee.
f r e d is a beautifully surreal fever dream of a story. Alexander Jeremy creates a tense, disturbing tale and has a knack for conveying story development and character exposition with only his visuals. I also enjoy that the director doesn’t feel the need to explain every little detail. Instead, this bizarre story is told from a very voyeuristic view. His story structure, framing, and visual compositions remind me of Takashi Miike. But in f r e d, Jeremy’s style is far more subdued, making perfectly banal situations feel unsettling.
Honestly, f r e d is a complicated story to classify, explain, or even praise. It doesn’t fit neatly into any boxes as its storytelling is unorthodox and also mildly confounding. Despite that, or maybe because of it, I found myself completely enthralled by this strange little tale. f r e d is a rare glint of originality in a sea of directors desperately trying to be someone else. Without gratuitous bloodshed, jump scares, or any desire to prove how edgy he is, Alexander Jeremy crafts a story full of actual shocks that titillates and disturbs. I honestly hope to see more from him.
"…a beautifully surreal fever dream..."