A woman (Ellie Woodruff-Bryant) has a dream in which she receives a call at 3:00am, giving her some dreadful news. Only thing is, she doesn’t know exactly what the news will be, but the dream was so vivid that she feels that it’s a portent of a terrifying occurrence that could be all too close…
Recently I saw writer/director Tiago Teixeira’s latest short Dog Skin at the Abertoir Horror Festival. This previous mini flick is less off-the-wall than his current offering but still displays the same confident filmmaking and an eye for a beautifully composed shot.
A lot of Wrong Number takes place in the dark, but the action is expertly lit so you’re never wondering what’s going on in the shadows – unless the story needs you to wonder what’s going on in the shadows. There’s a healthy dose of wandering around in the dead of night but this tale isn’t concerned with throwing tired jump scares into the mix. What Wrong Number wants you to feel is creeping dread and, on this score, it succeeds rather well.
Once the initial set-up is established, we’re just waiting for that call to come but the viewer’s expectations are subverted quite nicely, and things head in a slightly different direction – although we’re under no illusions that something horrible is highly likely to happen. I mean, it’s a horror movie, right? If you think this is going to wrap up with everything being absolutely fine, then you’re more of an optimist than I.
Without giving too much away, the denouement of Wrong Number chooses not to fill in all the blanks and it’s this ambiguity that will either delight or frustrate (I’m in the former camp). There’s more than enough information to connect the dots but there’s nothing pointing you to exactly what happened. It’s eerie as fuck though – excuse my unflowery language, but it just is – and that sense of unease will stay with you as the end credits roll.
A running time of 13 minutes gives the piece the necessary time to breathe and to set the necessary anticipation of what may or may not happen. There could have been the temptation for the story to descend into hysteria and an OTT exclamation point as the tension builds but it’s the relative restraint shown in its resolution that leaves a greater impression. Yes, there’s terror to be mined from what you see but there’s equal terror in what you don’t quite see too.
Most of Wrong Number stands or falls on the performance of Ellie Woodruff-Bryant, as she’s on screen for pretty much the whole time. Suffice to say, she’s excellent, giving a convincing portrayal of someone who may want to run from the nightmarish situation slowly enveloping her but also needing to face it down.
Lacking the enforced brashness of many a short and opting for subtle scares rather than sledgehammered shocks, Wrong Number is an atmospheric, pleasingly messy little chiller for the horror fan who’s looking for something a little different.