It hasn’t been that long since I mentioned my love and adoration of the art behind creating short films. As a filmmaker, I have been tasked with crafting a short film that would grab the attention of the viewer immediately and I always take it seriously whenever I get the opportunity to see what other filmmakers have done to bring something new within the medium and the restrictions presented before them. I was recently given the opportunity to review and see the short film, On/Off for the DUST platform and that film completely engaged my sensibilities on multiple levels. Needless to say I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the latest DUST exclusive short film, Occupant. This film explores a much different side of Science-Fiction than that of On/Off in that this film has a horror twist to it. This is why I am excited to have the opportunity to review Occupant in a non-spoiler capacity so that you may experience this film for yourself.
This short film that runs a little over four minutes was written and directed by filmmaker, Peter Cilella and follows a family dealing with a potential otherworldly threat. The film stars Dan O’ Brien, Lauran September, and Caroline Jennings portraying this family in a believable and engaging matter giving enough to each character that in the end it works well in accordance with the other elements present in the film. Since the film is so short there isn’t much from a narrative perspective that I can discuss as it would ruin the experience, but the film’s simplicity is its greatest aspect. Instead of attempting to use as much technical effects as possible this film goes for a grounded approach from the way that it is shot and the way in which the narrative is told. Its biggest narrative strength is that of the tense atmosphere that is felt almost immediately and never lets up. It is successful in raising the tension all the way up until its conclusion. With any story that is trying to bring horror aspects into the mix this approach worked exceptionally well.
While Occupant may not have had that much visual splendor in terms of CGI it still did have it’s own sense of visual and aesthetic pleasure from the cinematography that made this a unique experience. The film is shot from a perspective in which I haven’t seen attempted as much. The cinematography in many ways intentionally makes you feel like you are an outsider observing everything from a distance. While some closer shots are included a large portion of the film goes for wider more encompassing angles that in a way makes you feel as if you are just as much an onlooker as the otherworldly threat is. The subtle hints of the fantastical elements are beautifully shot in subtle ways to make you question what it is you are really seeing. This ended up making this film stand out in comparison to some other short films that often attempt to go for very close shots.
In addition to the visuals presented, the audio is just as important in bringing it all together. Normally I would discuss the music used, but this film didn’t use very much music at all and went for a more quiet and intentionally uncomfortable ambiance for its sound. Instead of highlighting things with a score the sounds you hear are just the quiet emptiness of a normal home in the middle of the night. This uncomfortable nature really made some of the moments incredibly tense and the lack of music was a bold, but effective decision.
Occupant is an incredibly well thought out and executed short sci-fi film that definitely left an impression. It used all of the tools of filmmaking to tell a simple story in a limited amount of time and that is very hard to accomplish. I hope to get to see more directorial work from Peter Cilella in the future because he definitely has the talent. This film really did a great job at keeping me at the edge of my seat the entire way through and it never once lost me or made me feel bored in any capacity. It was engaging, thrilling, and highly worth the time it takes to view it. I highly recommend that you give this film the opportunity when it is released on Thursday May 9th Exclusively on the DUST platform, which you can access via their website or on your Roku smart device with their service, DUSTx. This short horror/sci-fi flick is another great example from the DUST platform and I hope that you all enjoy this short as much as I did.
Check out the Trailer Below: