Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Popcorn Frights ’16: The Pond (short)

Standing water can attract insects and apparently also spirits from beyond the grave. Young Kris is convinced her late father’s ghost haunts that brackish water, but her conviction does little to console her zonked out mother or her authoritarian aunt—quite the contrary, in fact. Turn of the Century Flemish family values are decidedly Gothic in Jeroen Dumoulein’s short film The Pond (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 Popcorn Frights Film Festival in South Florida.

After her father’s untimely death left Kris’s mother an emotional basket case, her strict Aunt Jeanne started managing the household, with an iron fist and a righteous compulsion to judge. Although she keeps the widowed mother partially sedated, Aunt Jeanne largely leaves Kris to her own devices. She has only one rule: avoid the pond.

Of course, Kris is drawn to the small body of water like a magnet, especially when she starts to see tantalizing visions in the murky water. There is definitely something in there that recognizes Kris—and if the little girl is kept away from its waters, it will come to her.

This is a delightfully creepy tale of the supernatural that has some very impressive effects, but Dumoulein’s use of atmosphere and suggestion are even more unsettling. It is also a first class period production thanks to the richly detailed work of art director Stijn Verhoeven and the design team. Cinematographer Robrecht Hevaert gives the film the lush, sinister look that fans of Hammer Horror will immediately appreciate.

Young Xenia Borremans is impressively poised and convincing as the increasingly alienated Kris, especially considering the outlandishness of some of the scenes she carries. (Some things just aren’t covered at acting camp.) Kirsten Pieters and Sara De Bosschere are also unapologetically weird and twitchy as Mother Dearest and good old Aunt Jeanne, respectively. It is one of the finest technically crafted shorts you will find, regardless of genre, but it also satisfyingly takes cares of its supernatural business. Highly recommended for fans of horror and dark historicals, The Pond screens this Friday (8/12) before a feature at this year’s Popcorn Frights Film Festival.