Short films can be a perfect format for telling tales like the urban legends and childhood scary stories that friends pass along to freak one another out, and Knock is an excellent example of this. Though just under four-and-a-half minutes long before the ending credits roll, this brainchild of writer/director Joseph I. Martinez is positively riveting.
Knock is rich with mood and set designer Sally Levi is an absolute behind-the-scenes star of the film. The short had me from its opening visuals of nighttime in the middle of nowhere. The initial set looks dreamlike in its remoteness from reality and oozes eerie atmosphere. Murielle (Noelle Ann Mabry) knocks at a wooden cave door and repeats witch Icka Crombie’s name three times – a Halloween dare, we learn later – her voice echoing as owls hoot and a creepy guitar part plays, while shape-changing clouds roll in the sky. Murielle hears something behind the door and runs away screaming – but was it just a prank by one of her friends or an easily explained-away noise?
Next, children trick or treat in slow motion at a house with simple but effective Halloween front porch decorations and a hint of fog in the air. After they leave when no one answers, Murielle suddenly appears again as she knocks on her own front door and then fumbles with a key to enter. Finding herself alone, she tries to barricade herself in her bedroom, which is decorated with things that one might see while walking around in a desolate area with a cave. I won’t give too much away but make sure to pay special attention to the set design of this room.
Someone knocks at the door and then walks down the hall to Murielle’s bedroom. It is her sister Emma (Arielle Brachfeld), who tries to calm Murielle down and convince her that no one ever sees the cave witch after taking the dare she did. Again there is a knock at the door. Emma feels she should answer because she doesn’t want to make any trick or treaters mad but she finally gives in to her sister’s fear and puts the dresser back to block the door. The sisters hear another knock – and then somebody breaks in through a window. I won’t spoil the ending.
Arielle Brachfeld and Noelle Ann Mabry have great onscreen chemistry together. Director of photography David M. Brewer arrestingly captures the goings-on as well as the marvelous set designs. Sound designer Hayden Clement adds to Knock’s hair-raising ambience, aided by John Argosino’s original score. The makeup and effects by Anjanette Caron provide are alarming and highly effective.
Joseph I. Martinez has crafted a short film that fans of Tales from the Darkside or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – or anyone who loves a good old-fashioned spooky tale – would absolutely adore. Though Knock works marvelously as a stand-alone microshort, I would really enjoy seeing this story continued or expanded.
Knock: (4 / 5)