Tis the season for horror! As a horror buff myself, this is my favorite time of year. With it comes the scares and a renewed enthusiasm to not only revisit old classics, but find new films that may plant seeds of fear in our brains.
As an ardent fan of the genre, I’ll argue that the best part about horror is how it is the only category of film that can, of course, scare you, but also make you laugh or cry, and overwhelm you with happiness all in a single moment or scene. It’s therefore with delight that I can tell you that filmmaker Henry Jinings couldn’t have made that truth more apparent in his dark comedic horror, Welcome to Bushwick. Not only does it break genre rules, but it pokes fun at the stereotype of the Bushwick Brooklynite, while turning gender conventions of dating on their head. Most importantly, however, is that Jinings’ film exploits a very real fear that most people have: the fear of a first date.
Following a handsome, wannabe-hipster after a successful first date, he’ll discover that there’s more to his prospective partner than meets the eye and nothing will prepare him for what that might be as he makes it back to her place.
“I wanted the short to do a one-eighty about halfway through and to leave people feeling a little confused and uneasy.”
Jinings breaks the rules in how he chooses to scare his audience. Not employing the overused jump scare at the end of a story setup, as is seemingly an unwritten rule in horror shorts, Jinings chooses to do it smack dab in the middle of the film in a place where you’d least be mentally prepared for it. Using mostly practical effects, the last thing you’ll expect to see is in a moment of calm as Evan (Tim Platt) appears confident of where his first date will lead. From there on out, the film relies primarily on your imagination to come up with all kinds of horrifying scenarios of what Marceline (Liba Vaynberg) might be doing on the other side of the closed bathroom door in which Evan has locked himself in. The majority of the film is built upon the success of the lead’s performance, which turns out to be pretty funny in a dark, foreboding kind of way—you really have to laugh at his misfortune.
As for the premise, what better way to express first date anxiety than turning it into an actual horror movie? Stories based in truth and relatability tend to scare the most, and Jinings does a great job of pulling that off. He also twists dating gender stereotypes by way of a role reversal. Instead of a shy, insecure female on a date with a strong male, the film stars an insecure male who is unsure of his sexual prowess and probably a mama’s boy. Clearly, Marceline is the self-assured predator in this short which makes her transformation that much more compelling. Set within the bougie Brooklyn dating scene, it’s hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it all and we hope you don’t miss the subtle, yet gripping ending.
Having attended the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival this year, I was bummed to have missed its big screen moment as part of the Nightmare Fuel shorts program, but am excited that it’s become part of our selection at Short of the Week during the best part of the year. Welcome to Bushwick was also an official selection of the Slamdance Film Festival this year.