Death Lay Here [Richard Schertzer, USA, 2018]
Anyone who goes to a bar to drink tap water by themselves is either a) in grave need of WiFi, b) pregnant and thirsty, or c) a demon in a disguise. While perhaps the most unlikely, the final one is surely the most interesting. Thankfully, it is this option that takes the centre stage in Death Lay Here.
This short student horror begins with a chance encounter and a mysterious box. Rampant zombies, mysterious phone calls and dodgy library books are to follow, but exciting as this sounds, a weak plot and poor effects rob the film of its ghoulish potential.
The main issue with this short is the jolting storyline. Far too much information is blurted out in too short a time. The twist in the tale is a clever one, and even more haunting when we discover the true story in the Marvel-style Easter egg after the credits. However, this vital part of the plot is delivered at breakneck speed without the sufficient build up to make the denouement truly effective. A slower pace and well-placed clues would perhaps have made for a more satisfying story.
Additionally, much of the short’s horror is too cliché to actually be frightening. The soundtrack is a mash-up of Jaws (Stephen Spielberg, USA, 1975) and Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1960), and Charlie Berry’s ‘undead’ pursuers are almost comically unconvincing. That said, there is one particularly accomplished jump scare that suggests the director’s potential for a decent thriller.
While this film does sag in places, the two main parts are well acted and the storyline could make for a fantastic supernatural mystery with just a few tweaks.
'Death Lay Here' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2019.