Mood. While many lesser horror movies have settled for simply throwing boat loads of gore and screeching soundtracks at their audiences in an attempt to scare them, the classics of the genre have always known how to set the right establishing mood to lay the foundation for the upcoming shocks. Wisely steering clear of cheap scares Harry Richards uses mood and ambiance to great effect in his unsettling short film “Still Life” chronicling the increasingly macabre day to day life of World War II era crime photographer Oliver Kane (Simon Lys). In addition to having a depressing job and living under constant fear of German attack Kane also has the misfortune of seeing ghostly imprints of the recently deceased, alienating him from his co-workers. Kane’s life grows even stranger when he meets the death obsessed Bartholemew Gray (Peter Eyre) who is a fan of Kane’s photography and views him as a haunted kindred spirit.
“Still Life” works because Richards knows how to wring the most creepy atmosphere from his modest budget, giving us a genuinely eerie period piece and effectively showing the viewer the haunted world of Kane. While Lys does well as the protagonist it is Eyre as Gray who steals the show, his recounting of a disastrous night on the battlefield is pitch perfect and Eyre’s presence adds a lot of weight to the overall effect of the film. This is not to say everything comes together perfectly with the end seemingly a little too vague and exterior shots suffering from an extreme overabundance of digitally added fog but these are modest complaints in an otherwise engaging, well told suspense story.