To a parent, there’s nothing scarier than the thought of losing a child. Spanish filmmaker Ángel Gómez Hernández taps into this darkly relatable fear to add nuance and depth to a horror genre that too frequently lacks both. Following a mother harried by her ex, and portrayed as barely keeping it together emotionally, she grapples with the notion of losing custody of her baby. But, a mysterious older lady comes to her at a birthday party to warn her that a court order is the least of her worries—something much more sinister is stalking her child.
Monsters, jump scares, and a woman in peril, Hernández’s horror short recycles many classic horror tropes. While a supernatural entity snatching a human child is nothing we haven’t seen before, how Hernández revamps the premise will certainly give you goosebumps. Hernández starts with plausible fears and makes them much scarier with supernatural circumstances. He ultimately layers different facets of fear that build up until the climax of the short film.
Here’s the breakdown of what’s scary: 1. Potentially losing a child. 2. The fear of the unknown, i.e. the baby’s fate. 3. A mother’s realization that she can’t save her child. And 4. Facing a monster with supernatural abilities, which is inherently scary because she has no way to combat it.
So while the film may deploy familiar tricks—dark shadows, being vulnerable in the middle of the night, even a gratuitous shower scene, the real fears that Hernández hits us with are much less tangible, but powerfully effective. Add the fact that he creates various red herrings and wicked in-camera effects, you’re going to have chills by the final scene.
Take notes, filmmakers!
Like many great horror films, the lives and experiences of women are at the forefront of this story. However, whether Hernández intentionally sought to build such a villainous viewpoint of paternal parenting is questionable. One thing is certain: it sure as hell made for an uncanny perspective of the sexes. As the film unfolds, it’s clear that the safety of the child goes hand in hand with the presence of a female, altogether glorifying maternity no matter how flawed his protagonist appears to be.
Right from the beginning, Hernández paints the baby’s father as a bad guy and you can’t help but root for the mother from the get go. Subconsciously you’re gunning for the mother to prove herself worthy of keeping her child, which makes you even more scared as the evil presence makes itself known. By the end of the film, Hernández reveals a humanoid monster that appears to be “the man” the mysterious woman warned her about, further adding to the film’s theme. Trust me, you’re going to dig this.
Hernández is currently working on the feature version of this short film and we can only hope that it will find as much success as The Babadook did. After all, that was a short first too!