A recent review of The Telephone, by Midlands Movies.
The Telephone (2017)
Directed by Stuart Connock Wheeldon
Nine Ladies Film
A simple piano refrain and shots of quirky antiquities opens new horror short The Telephone from Nine Ladies Film.
With a more experimental introduction than previous films, Wheeldon has used images to create a sense of intrigue as we cross-jump shot-to-shot between seemingly random items and a list of missing persons before settling down for the tale.
Nigel Barber (as Max) is shown as a tormented artist scrawling Pollock-esque paint ejaculations across a canvas, before a parallel narrative shows a man (Bern Deegan as Richard) in a red telephone box. What follows is a series of eerie dream sequences experienced by Richard and as we receive these uncertain errors with him, the audience begins to ask if these are real or imagined. Or are they even glimpses of the past?
Well, Richard turns out to be a journalist investigating the disappearances highlighted at the film’s start but the relationship between him and the mysterious Max is intentionally vague. The constant telephone ringing provides an interesting background noise to the (hinted-upon) mental torment that Barber and Bern are encountering as well.
The main narrative is only hinted at, with the audience having to do much of the work as the jarring edits and almost non-existent dialogue create a mysterious puzzle that I hope most viewers would throw themselves into.
The music is great if a little overpowering at times and is edited higher in the mix than the sound effects – mainly the title’s ‘buzzing’ telephone – but the cleverly constructed angles and shots maintain a good sense of intrigue. Black and white flashbacks keeps the visuals appealing and the film had the suburban weirdness of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List and even a bit of Nic Roeg thrown in there too.
A big change of style for the local filmmaker, the short film definitely prioritises atmosphere and feeling over narrative. Personally I found the lack of story a bit frustrating at the start, but the film clarifies further in the second half and answers some of the uncertainties but also cleverly leaves you hanging on a number of points.
Some may be put off by the dream/nightmare-like randomness of the plot threads but I recommend putting any doubts ‘on hold’ for a high-concept hazy nightmare. In the end, The Telephone ends up being a great calling card for Wheeldon and a huge leap forward for the director in style and visual story-telling.
Midlands Movies Mike