Director Andy McLeod and screenwriter Rowena Amos take the classic mystery/horror film set-up of a group of people, some of them strangers, being invited to a remote location by an enigmatic host and give decidedly different riffs on it in the short fear-fare film Strange Waters (U.K., 2022).
Spitbank Fort, an actual structure located in the center of the English Solent, is a sea fort that started out as a naval installation in 1878 and in recent years served as a luxury hotel. In the premise of Strange Waters, it is a private residence whose owner has invited singer Casta (Lydia Cashman), illusionist Jax (Yinka Awoni), their assistant Vince (Tim Rowe), and cameraman Ellis (Mark Joseph) for a personal performance. The owner’s assistant Angel (Byrony Tebbutt) greets the quartet and tells them a bit about the history of Spitbank Fort, including how four sailors stationed there perished. She tells the guests to make themselves comfortable but not to wander. This being a horror film, astute readers can guess that curiosity wins over common sense regarding that last request, and supernatural circumstances unfold.
Spitbank Fort makes for an intriguing, eerie, isolated setting, which gives scenes exploring the creepier parts of the installation more gravity than the usual wandering around in dark rooms in horror movies. Kevin Early’s cinematography deftly captures the suspenseful proceedings that sometimes occur in rather tight spaces.
McLeod builds the intrigue and suspense impressively, working from Amos’ solid script. The ensemble cast members give fine performances. This all adds up to a chilling viewing experience that works as a stand-alone short but also holds great promise for potential expansion into a feature film.(3.5 / 5)
Strange Waters won nine Platinum Awards including Best Horror, Best Movie (Short), Best British Short, and Best Director at Fortean Film Festival, which took place in Gloucester, U.K., on September 1 and 2, 2022. For more information, visit https://www.forteanfilmfestival.com/ and https://www.strangewaters.co.uk/.