Home Sweet Home, a dynamite short from horror auteur Ashley Nicole, is another great example as to why the writer-director-star is one of the more intriguing underground filmmakers working today. The story revolves around Emily (Ashley Nicole), a person with schizophrenia who thinks something unthinkable is happening in her house.
Standing outside and looking up, Emily sees from the highest steeple a mysterious glowing eye looking down at her. Inside the house, there is something behind the wallpaper trying to get through to her. Inside the walls, there are endless rows of teeth gnashing. Emily takes the prescribed drugs to help her stop seeing all of these awful things. But, instead, Emily starts seeing more unusual activity.
I love Nicole’s hand-crafted miss-en-scene; the look is luscious. The artificiality of the surreal-looking house miniature recalls the art design of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. There are forced perspective shots to make this strange paper house tower over the viewer to marvelous effect. The filmmaker bathes everything in that sweet high fuchsia lighting that makes your synapses pop.
“Emily takes the prescribed drugs to help her stop seeing all of these awful things.”
The eerie visuals are heightened by the atmosphere created by the creepy music box score by Rajat Tiwari. All this achieves the goal of illustrating that the disturbances are not limited to the supernatural. We are talking way past haunted here. Even with the nastiness at the end, the feeling that the horror elements are more symbolic of mental terror than literal buoys the themes. Home Sweet Home strikes the right chilling chord.
Nicole’s work here is part of a distribution network that is the cinematic equivalent of the “farm to table” movement in cuisine. Thanks to technology, independent filmmakers can now release their works directly to an audience through YouTube (or some such) once they have gone through the festival circuit. Nicole writes, produces, directs, films, and edits all her works, which is as auteur as you can get. That she does this far from the industry out in Harlingen, Texas, makes her output of live-action and animated horror shorts all the more impressive. Can you imagine if Maya Deren, Jack Smith, or Richard Kern had Youtube channels while they were crafting their art?
This kind of access helps support the unique homemade aesthetic of Nicole’s films, in which details like using Tic-Tacs to stand in for pills are not just forgivable but preferable. Home Sweet Home is a beautiful dose of high-quality horror that gives me the itch to see more from this filmmaker.
"…one of the more intriguing underground filmmakers working today."