Reviewed by Tim Anderson
“When you go out there, bad things happen.”
The perils of being an agoraphobic serial killer are surface-scratched in Director Paul Davis’ (Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London) short film Him Indoors. Essentially shot as a showcase piece for Davis’ storytelling skills—to show investors for a feature film he is developing—Davis assembled key cast and crew members from that production and fleshed out a twisted little 11-minute black comedy that clearly illustrates he can polish a solid narrative production from behind the lens.
The story follows a few short minutes in the afternoon of Gregory Brewster as he prepares for a dinner/date with his new next door neighbor—played by Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman). However when she arrives early, nearly catching him in the act of butchering a local delivery boy, Brewster has to call upon his very, very underdeveloped social skills to try and keep her from discovering his dark secret.
Since Brewster is a serial killer, the audience doesn’t need particularly need specific motivation for his actions. We know all we need to know about what kind of man he is in less than 3 minutes. However, as the story twists toward the climactic resolution, the character’s intentions might seem ambiguous unless you were paying closer attention to the opening monologue.
What seems like little more than ramblings at the outset is actually a clever way of imparting a fair amount of motivational information that will be visited later on in the story. This is a nifty trick since short films have so little time to communicate to the viewer the world of the characters that inhabit them. However, audiences that are easily distracted may miss some of the problems Brewster faces, making the film’s turn of events head-scratching or unclear as the production comes to its conclusion.
What minor foibles the plot may have in clarity are easily overshadowed by the spot-on performance from Reece Shearsmith (Shaun of the Dead) as Brewster. Shearsmith affects a nebbish performance and oozes unease with every passing phrase. It’s the very definition of the quiet guy next door—you know, the one that neighbors can’t believe was secretly hacking people up for years. As for Lizzy, Pollyanna McIntosh is, for fans of her feral and vicious performance in Lucky McKee’s The Woman, almost unrecognizably charming.
The production values are slick with excellent cinematography from Eben Bolter and an understated but effective score from Musician/DJ Osymyso. As for the script, and the directing, this makes major narrative film debut from Davis, who made his name as an award-winning horror journalist and as the Director of the An American Werewolf in London retrospective documentary that was included on the Universal Blu-ray release in 2011. And for a debut film, Davis handles the reigns with sure-footedness in the shot composition and pacing, while displaying a good ear for his character’s dialogue. It’s an auspicious start and I expect that we’ll see more from Davis as his feature film gains traction.
As for Him Indoors, it’s getting outdoors as the filmmakers gear up to take it on an international festival run which already includes prestigious stops at London’s famed Frightfest and the Telluride Horror Show. Let’s hope for them, unlike Gregory Brewster, good things happen when they go out there.