Picking up awards from Sundance, Raindance and the London Critics’ Circle, Dylan Holmes Williams’ killer short The Devil’s Harmony arrives online with an ever-increasing fanbase and a rising reputation. A real crowdpleaser of a short, this high-concept piece blends a horror/high-school movie narrative mash-up with a stylised aesthetic and is an attention-grabbing calling card for a director with a bright future.
The story of the bullied leader of an a cappella club, out for revenge after years of torment, Holmes Williams explained how the idea for his film came to him after shooting a music video for a similar group at university. “They may appear harmless, with their saccharine smiles and well-moisturised foreheads”, he playfully reveals, “but don’t be fooled, they mean ill.”
With its purposefully stereotypical characters and even an unexpected breakout song routine, on paper The Devil’s Harmony owes much to the family-friendly high school movies, that have been ever-popular for decades now. Early on in his short though, Holmes Williams makes it clear he has darker intentions and as we discuss his inspiration, films like Elephant, Brick and Donnie Darko are enthusiastically referenced.
“My co-writer Jess O’Kane and I wanted to make a sort of postmodern riff on the classic 80s/90s American high school movie, in which we lean into – but then subvert – the familiar beats of that genre”, the director explains. ” I aimed to build a universe that felt like a sort of timeless, placeless nowhere-land, where the themes – toxic masculinity, bullying, revenge – could be explored in a darkly comic way”.
With a narrative that feels primed for further development, Holmes Williams matches his impressive storyline with a slick production that means his film is as handsome as it is entertaining. Keen to highlight the importance of his whole cast and crew in bringing his vision to life, the director praised his colourist, DoP, production designer and excellent cast as we discuss the production of his film.
With a “de-saturated, low contrast aesthetic” achieved through the photography and grade and this feel replicated through the production design, it’s clear the director wanted his aesthetic to enhance and not just support the mood he was creating. Aiming to combine all the filmmaking elements available to create something “cold, cruel and unwelcoming”, the film’s style perfectly reflects its protagonists downbeat view of the world.
Now in development on two feature films with production companies in the UK and a TV show with a production company in the US, it sounds as if the The Devil’s Harmony has made quite the impression on everyone lucky enough to have seen it.