Don’t Despair is short film written and directed by Alfred Giancarli that takes and interesting idea and manages to fully present it in a short timeframe with precision, resulting in maximum impact. In short, it does exactly what a short horror film should do.
This may not sound like much of an achievement if it weren’t for the fact that a majority of short horror films fail in at least one of these areas. Therefore, Don’t Despair is quite a rare find, which is apt given the plot.
We enter an empty bar as two people meet for the first time. The man and woman are collectors of serial killer memorabilia and are meeting thanks to an online forum of likeminded people.
William (Kevin Reed) is quite new to the scene, but has managed to acquire something that is of great value to seasoned enthusiast Rachel (Erin Etheridge). As they meet to exchange the artefact for payment it’s obvious that they have a connection, the foundation of which is their common interest in the macabre.
They talk intensely about the object in their possession – a magazine that was once owned by a serial killer – before Rachel offers to take William to see something even greater. It’s as if the magazine is the final piece in a bloody puzzle, the completion of which will have hideous results.
Although Don’t Despair is an independent short film, it’s surprising just how magnetic it is.
With most of the piece being a dialogue between Rachel and William, discussing memorabilia, it would be easy for this idea to go wrong and become dull, but thankfully it does not.
The intensity of the characters combined with the curious subject matter lead the audience through. The dialogue itself is short, punchy and to the point, skilfully whittled down to provide information without getting carried away, and this is essential for such a short film. There’s no sense here that the writers have battled to cut and stuff 30 minutes of ideas into 15. Don’t Despair is considered and methodical.
The main characters are confidently portrayed and the skill of the cast twinned with the high quality of writing results in a consistent flow without gaps or lulls.
The repeated use of the driving scene is a nice touch, giving the viewer an impression of déjà vu. The scene is repeated just as the historical events are repeated by our collectors. And as the car drives into the bleak, nondescript suburbs, it’s hard to know what lies at the end of its journey. This is another device that leaves the audience anxious and intrigued.
Don’t Despair is short and sweet (or should that be sour?). It stands as a great example of ‘how to make a short horror film’ due to its effortless simplicity.
It’s exciting to wonder what Giancarli will create with more time and tools at his disposal.