A buzzing phone, a whispered conversation, a disturbed cry…60-seconds into Tony Morales’ 11-minute horror short and I’m already totally freaked out. As a genre fan and managing editor for S/W I love programming for spooky season, but finding truly scary shorts is never an easy task…this year I think we nailed it with Abracitos.
A festival favourite, having played some of the biggest genre fests around, Abracitos opens with that aforementioned soundscape playing over a childish chalk-line drawing of a woman leaving a castle and heading towards a pair of children by a bed. After this strange and somewhat disorientating intro, Morales thrusts his audience into his chilling scenario as we witness older sister Laura (obviously upset) hang up the phone and approach her younger sibling Ainara.
With her sister conducting her own unusual phone call, within the confines of a blanket fort, we begin to get the sense of an evil presence in their lives when Ainara (also clearly upset) announces “Abracitos is in my room”. Laura quickly rejects these claims, stating that “Abracitos doesn’t exist…it was just to scare you”, but her mind is quickly changed as she goes to leave the protection of their homemade den.
From here on out, Abracitos enters total nerve-shredding territory. If you’ve ever found that horror staple of a young child hiding under their blanket, in fear of a monster, terrifying, then brace yourself as Morales flips that scenario into total nightmare territory. As the sisters’ naive place of refuse quickly turns into their temporary prison, you’re never sure where the next fright is coming from. Constantly on edge, daring not to breathe, you feel totally immersed in the siblings’ hellish predicament – this is horror filmmaking at its very best.
With most of the fear Abracitos generates coming from what you don’t see, like most effective horror films, sound plays a vital role in the success of Morales’ short. With a constant unnerving rumble accentuating the film, the jagged score punctuates the moments of real terror, the young girls breathe echoing through your head (again, like you’re in the room with them). Morales isn’t reinventing the wheel here, but he knows what works in horror and he’s not afraid to use it to his advantage.
Darkness is another tool in the horror filmmaker’s toolset and once again Morales employs low lighting to ramp up the tension and dread in Abracitos. After snuffing out the fairy lights that illuminate the blanket fort about a third of the way through his short, the rest of the film is lit so we can only just see the expressions on Laura and Ainara’s terrified faces. As the girls tentatively journey out from their hiding place, Morales allows us a little more light (from table lamps and an ominous-looking dollhouse) so we can bask in the glory of his reverberation conclusion. If that wasn’t enough to frighten the life out of you, stick around until after the credits for an extra easter egg scare – Morales is determined you don’t leave with his film with any fingernails left.
Having played Fantasia, Screamfest, Fantastic Fest and Palm Springs ShortFest, we couldn’t be happier to host the online premiere of Abracitos here on S/W. Shorts this terrifying don’t come around very often and (as I mentioned in my intro) it’s the type of film we just love to programme for Halloween. We hope it leaves your palms sweaty, your heart pounding and your dreams disturbed…just like a good horror story should.