Absolutely chilling, unsettling, and macabre, writer/director Michael Kratochvil’s Australian short film I Call Upon Thee takes the concept of a children’s horror story and places it firmly in the world of adult fright fare. The result is an unforgettable slice of cinema that lingers discomfitingly long after its initial viewing.
Nia (Anna Cooke) is older sister to Jo (Asher Bryans), and she is trying to get Jo to memorize a chant that she hopes will summon the help of something supernatural to pull the girls’ fractured family out of its current state. Their mother Kim (Josephine Croft) is suffering mentally and nearly useless to her daughters, and there is a very young baby sibling that needs to be taken care of.
Cooke and Bryans are both marvelous, with the young thespians nailing their starring turns. Their facial expressions are perfect, and their performances highly believable.
Kratochvil takes the concept of a cautionary fable and runs with it, crafting a nightmarish vision that hints at a wider, even more terrifying world — and here’s hoping that he finds the resources to turn the concepts of this short into a feature film. The visuals are jarring, from the behaviors of the mother to what the girls invoke — no spoilers here, but it’s unnerving, to say the least, and Paul de Freitas gives ghoulish cinematic life to it — to one of the most disturbing images I have seen in recent memory. I’ll just say that it involves flies and leave the shock to future viewers).(4 / 5)
I Call Upon Thee screens as part of Portland Horror Film Festival, which takes place June 29–July 3, 2022 in Portland, Oregon, with an online streaming option for U.S. residents. For more information, visit https://portlandhorrorfilmfestival.com/.