Foley [Ryan Wilson, USA, 2020]


Home alone in the dead of night, you hear a noise in the garden. Dogs barking, torch brandished, you rush to confront an unknown nemesis but no one is there. It’s a familiar scene from many a horror film. Director Ryan Wilson gives a modern spin to this classic horror trope in Foley, as one man and his sound recorder star in what seems to be at once a thriller and an homage to the joys of filmmaking.

Foley work, protagonist Kelly explains, is "sound shit", that is, "getting audio sound effects for recorded video". Dedicated to his art form, he spends the night collecting nocturnal ambience rather than attending his friend’s party and, predictably, he gets more than he bargained for.

One thing can be said for this short and that is it certainly is gripping. Indeed, this trope has been used so many times for one good reason: it works. Wilson also uses the blend of filmmaking and horror well, fashioning something that almost seems like a kind of cyber thriller. Rather than the classic ‘he’s behind you’ jump scene, the villain lurks in the loading bar. For the multitude of us who are spending more and more time in front of our screens, this suggests a whole load of new possibilities for the thriller genre.

Like most demons, though, once revealed it is far less scary. This is a little disappointing given Wilson’s otherwise more original take on the scene and perhaps the film could have benefitted from a more intriguing climax.

What stands out throughout these tense ten minutes is the focus on equipment. The short opens with a shot of a computer screen, a camera, an expensive mouse and keyboard. While these are certainly part of the theme of filmmaking, they occasionally seem a little redundant and, for example, a long shot of Kelly making a coffee even verge on pretentious. More importantly, they distract the viewer from the main character himself. Coupled with fairly flat dialogue and a somewhat stiff delivery, it is hard to really connect with Kelly and as a consequence, it is difficult to care what happens to him.

Foley definitely seems like it is made by filmmakers for filmmakers. The passion for the technicalities of the art form certainly comes through well and Wilson has a lot of potential for building suspense. With a few tweaks to the storyline and characterisation, this short could be much more engaging.


'Foley' was a film in consideration for Short Focus Film Festival 2020.

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