Great horror films prey upon relatable fears: that noise you heard in the middle of the night…a feeling of being watched…the thing you just saw in the shadows. Filmmaker John William Ross’s directly titled The Thing in the Apartment (can’t accuse him of burying the lead) capitalizes on the latter of those two: Scopophobia and the fear of what may or may not be lurking in shadows. The result is a suspenseful ten minute ride—a creepy little creature film with just enough story intrigue to help it rise amongst the swath of indie horror flicks online. In other words, perfect Halloween watching.
In preparation for the holiday this year, we at Short of the Week screened A LOT of horror films. Most, while technically proficient, failed to actually scare us. The Thing in the Apartment is one of the exceptions. Quite simply, this film made us jump—the premise starts quickly and the tension doesn’t let up. You can tell an online horror short film is effective when you have an urge to scrub forward in your browser—not because you’re bored, but rather because you’re afraid of what’s coming next. Thing isn’t a deep film. And, we wish the payoff wasn’t so firmly rooted in horror cliché (the ending was a disappointment for us), but as a piece of genre-filmmaking it’s highly impressive with solid production values and fantastic creature work.
My main goal was to scare the living sh-t out of people.
Communicating via e-mail, Ross provides some more insight into the film: “Obviously, my main goal was to scare the living sh-t out of people, but that never works if you don’t care about the characters. All my movies are about crazy people who turn out to be right, so I’ve always been interested in the crazy friend/sane friend odd couple character dynamic. You see it in horror films like Martyrs and Suspiria. There’s something unsettling but also kind of funny and strangely touching about that relationship. That’s totally the tone I was going for with the short—oppressive but darkly humorous and with a little heart.”
Distributed by Eli Roth’s brand new horror channel/online horror community Crypt TV, The Thing in the Apartment is quite a departure from director John William Ross’s last Short of the Week featured film, Things Are Really Insane. 20-minute character drama has been traded for a 10-minute fright fest. While the link between the two films may not seem readily apparent, it serves as a testament to Ross’s ability to produce strong work in different genres. After all, a good storyteller is…well…a good storyteller, regardless of genre or tone. Obviously, we’re looking forward to what he has in store for us next. To keep up with Mr. Ross and his various projects, be sure to follow him on twitter.