“Darla” (Shriekfest 2016): Homeless Man Meets Horror in an Alley in Effective Short Shocker


Somewhere between classic Pandora’s Box-style cautions and good intentions paving their own roads to hell lies director/co-writer Eric Dresden Connelly’s Darla (2015). What begins as a human drama story with a heartwarming act of concern merges into science fiction and horror territory.

A homeless man (Matt Fowler) struggles with a difficult moral choice in the horror short Darla.

A homeless man (Matt Fowler, also co-writer) is rummaging for food and other items in an alley when he suddenly hears the unmistakable sound of a baby crying. He determines that the baby is inside a covered dumpster and wrestles with whether he should rescue the baby or continue moving on. He eventually makes his decision and readies a place for the baby in his cart. What happens next in this approximately 5-minute (before end credits) short needs to be left undisclosed to avoid spoilers.

Eric Dresden Connelly, Matt Fowler, and the short’s crew have done a bang-up job. Darla has no dialogue, very little music, and a sound design that consists mostly of a baby crying, ambient street noise, and the sounds of the homeless man’s actions, but the short still manages to touch viewers with the main character’s acts of kindness and then surprise them with its climax. Erik Hassel’s cinematography looks terrific, and Connelly chooses a variety of interesting angles and shots to strong effect. Fowler brings believable emotional investment to his role.

Darla had its world premiere at Shriekfest in October and is currently on its festival run. This is one to watch for one when it heads your way.

Darla: 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.