[Review] Maggie May (FilmQuest): Foreboding Atmosphere and the Horrors of Inaction Drive Disquieting Australian Short

Writer/director Mia Kate Russell explores the potential terrors of inaction in her Australian short film Maggie May, which offers up some of the most disturbing horrific images in recent memory, both onscreen and offscreen. 

Something is dreadfully wrong with Maggie (Lulu McClatchy of the 2012 features Crawlspace and 6 Plots), and though her relatives and other mourners gathered at her home to mourn the loss of her mother whisper to each other about it, no one has done much to intervene, it seems. When Maggie’s sister Sam (Katrina Mathers of Saw) announces that she is staying, along with her twin babies, to help Maggie — with Sam facing horrors of her own at her home — Maggie responds with her usual uncaring attitude, the same one that allowed her to announce that she “didn’t do anything” when her mother died in front of her. When Sam suffers an accident, the short washes viewers with dread as it heads toward its powerful conclusion.

Makeup Department Head and Special Effects Makeup artist Julian Dimase has done amazing work in Maggie May. To describe exactly what would be doing a grave disservice to those who haven’t yet seen the short, but suffice it to say that plenty of gore is on hand, and through a manner which even the most seasoned fright fare fans should find unique. One of the film’s most powerful moments, though, is an offscreen revelation that hits as hard as any of the incredible practical effects.

Both McClatchy and Mathers are superb, but the former’s turn as someone whose apathy goes into the territory of psychologically unwell is especially chilling. Russell does a top-notch job of building suspense and apprehension, and of addressing culturally widespread indifference in the intimate setting of a family dwelling.

Maggie May screens at FilmQuest, where it is has received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Lulu McClatchy. The festival runs at Velour in Provo, Utah, from September 6–14.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 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.