No Hard Shells Crack? [Rich Mcafee, UK, 2020]

In the world of short film it seems as though the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on a contagious thematic stronghold all of its own, as a whole glut of recent films have begun to surface with the coronavirus crisis at their narrative core. Although quarantine movies aren’t exactly new (see Cabin Fever [Eli Roth, USA, 2002]; Rec [Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza, Spain, 2007]; It Comes at Night [Trey Edward Schults, USA, 2017]), in this current political and artistic climate, one could easily ascribe this topical “wave” of films to its own filmic genre.

Written by and starring Rich Mcafee, No Hard Shells Crack? is just one of many contemporary shorts that have taken inspiration from the pandemic, sticking very much to an unwittingly imposed manifesto, established by the government rather than an artistic troupe (as seen with the Dogme 95 movement), with ‘stay at home’ rules grounding them in minimalist atmospherics and chamber-piece scenarios.

The film’s poster nods to gritty 1970s slasher horrors and, from this alone, offers promise of a cine-literate inclusion into the canon of 2020 lockdown shorts. Shot cheaply and innovatively, with heightened dramatic sounds and fast-paced editing, the film manages to successfully conjure up a sense of the protagonist’s (cast as “The Mute”) newfound paranoia.