Writer/director Mikel Ledesma’s short film Shattered is a dark dramatic thriller with one foot planted firmly in the horror genre, specifically in torture horror. That foot may be what keeps it from reaching the wider audience it seems to seek.
Rose Sterling (Scarlette Martin) kidnaps Tom Collins (Matthew Roy), the man who was tried for the rape and murder of her young daughter, Lily (Julianna Ochoa). Although the court found him innocent, Rose believes he is guilty and she takes drastic measures in her questioning of him. Her methods of torture become more extreme as she tries to draw a confession out of him.
Shattered visually suggests what happens to Lily rather than luridly wallowing in too much detail. When the police tell Rose what happened, viewers can feel sympathy for her as she breaks down in tears. Unfortunately that is where the visual suggestion ended, and also where my sympathetic feelings for Rose ended. I found it hard to believe that a bereaved parent out for revenge and trying to get closure on the death of her daughter would take sadistic pleasure in slowly threatening and torturing the alleged perpetrator, but this is what Rose does as she smirks and strokes her fingers – along with weapons – on Collins’ naked upper torso. At one point, she tells him how attractive he is and says, “You must have all the ladies throwing themselves at you” as she strokes his arm and chest with a pistol. The violence therefore comes across as more fetishized than purposeful to the story. One particularly gory and graphic effect doesn’t help matters, either.
Scarlette Martin’s performance as Rose has its ups and downs. Martin is most effective when she portrays a truly grieving mother at the beginning of Shattered, and I felt that her finest moments are in the final minutes of the film. She sometimes comes across as overacting during the short’s lengthy interrogation-and-torture scene, especially when she is shouting.
Matthew Roy gives a more nuanced performance as Collins, who tries to calmly talk sense into Rose and to convince her of his innocence. His displays of pain are realistic, making the torture scenes more cringeworthy.
Cinematographer/editor Anthony W. Gutierrez does a nice job with his handheld shooting and puts viewers unnervingly close to the film’s events. He shows some interesting editing techniques throughout, as well.
Mikel Ledesma is an up-and-coming young filmmaker with a lot of promise. One of his previous horror shorts, Tinsel (2012), garnered attention on the festival circuit, including award nominations and wins. There are enough positive traits to his work on Shattered – such as the building up of tension, overall directorial effort, and quality of storytelling – to make me interested in seeking out his past films and looking forward to what he does next.
Shattered seems to want to examine, in the context of a drama/psychological thriller, the extremes that the parent of a murdered child might go to get answers to harrowing questions along with a measure of revenge, but this approach is weighed down by the graphic torture sequences. The short film should play well to torture horror fans, but it will likely have a difficult time winning over a more mainstream audience.
Shattered: (2.5 / 5)
Some more films from cinematographer Anthony W. Gutierrez
Circus of the Dead, Dir. Billy Pon
Snake with a Human Tail, Dir. Spencer Gray
The Merchant (Lionsgate Released as “The Devil’s Deal“), Dir Justin Mosley
Animal Among Us, Dir. John Woodruff