Fashion model Abigail (Sayla Vee de Goede) is having an enjoyable time doing a photo shoot on the beach until she is bitten by something in the water in the short horror film Seiren. After returning home, she checks her wound, which looks quite unlike anything a fish might make. She passes out and seems to have lost some of her short-term memory. This is the least of her troubles, though, as she begins having unusual cravings and going through gruesome physical changes.
Director/screenwriter Kat Threlkeld’s first foray into horror (her third short film overall) is an impressive 17-minute short that steadily builds its tension from unease to its creepy reveal and vicious finale. Without giving too much of the plot away, Seiren combines body horror with elements of classic Western mythology into a creature featurette. (Avoid searching for the short’s trailer or tagline unless you want to go instantly into spoiler territory.) Threlkeld’s credit listings also show that she is the short’s set/costume designer and concept artist; she, SFX makeup artist Lisa DeWilde, and SFX makeup assistant Heather Funk have created an eldritch, menacing-looking creature using practical effects. This monstrosity is more impressive than those in many recent films with feature-length running times and much larger budgets.
Although there are a few other roles in the short, Seiren is Sayla Vee de Goede’s film to carry, as she is onscreen for the majority of the running time. She does a splendid job, especially during the photo shoot – she appears natural embodying the character of a fashion model, which many actresses ham it up for – and during the bodily transformation scenes. Abigail has no idea why she is suddenly changing in both body, mind, and eating habits, and Vee de Goede shines during these breakdowns. There is a small bit of a rough acting patch in the middle of the short, during a lunchtime meet-up between Abigail and her friend Samantha (Mallory Palmer) at a sushi restaurant. Palmer’s acting seems slightly over emoted here and Vee de Goede’s does a little, as well. Both actresses are solid other than during this scene, though, and nail their portrayals in the final act.
Kat Threlkeld’s script provides viewers with a satisfying character arc for Abigail, from confident and seemingly friendly to frightened and confrontational to – well, that would be telling. Threlkeld acquits herself well as an auteur, pacing the tale skilfully and showing Abigail’s bodily metamorphosis slowly over time, giving viewers an idea early on of what to expect but building suspense steadily and not rushing to get to the full payoff. Threlkeld is ably assisted by cinematographer Rodney V. Smith and editor/visual effects technician Lance Fernandes. The soundscape of the film is also an important and ominous presence; credit for that goes to sound designer/foley artist George Flores, composer Adrian Ellis, and soprano Carrie Gemmell.
I hope that Kat Threlkeld continues making fright-film fare because her debut in the genre is an absorbing one, indeed. The Retro Grave Productions effort Seiren is currently making the film festival rounds and is winning international awards. If you are fortunate enough to have it screen in your area, it is well worth the effort to seek it out.
Seiren: (4 / 5)