The black-and-white short film The Shutterbug Man evokes an incredible amount of moody, brooding atmosphere in a scant four minutes and perfectly captures the terror of traditional childhood spook stories.
The stop-motion animation tale tells the story of the titular character, a man who was obsessed with photographing “cruel things . . . broken things” in his quest to find “the darkest heart of the world.” Unfortunately for him, he found it, and this discovery took its toll on him. What follows is a series of both heart-wrenching and heart-stopping events.
The Shutterbug Man is a true labor of love by filmmaker Chris Walsh, who wrote, produced, shot, edited, animated and provided visual effects and sound design, among other tasks. Walsh nailed it on all counts. We see life on both sides of the Shutterbug Man’s camera and some of the photos he takes are disturbing pieces designed by Walsh. They play with our sense of logic because they are puppetry pieces yet they seem strikingly grounded in some primal sense of reality within us. There are so many simple yet extraordinary shots in the film; a few drops of blood here is more startling than bucket loads of gore in many other films.
There are multiple types of horror at play in The Shutterbug Man, the most prominent of which is its ability to instantly bring us back to our childhood fears, when ghastly unknown things quite possibly lurked outside our bedroom windows, in our closets, or under our beds – shared fears that we discussed with friends at school or at each other’s houses while adults told us that there was nothing to be frightened about – and these things were more real to us than true news events about horrific things that happened to actual children. The story resides in that surreal world where the not-quite-possible collides with the all-too-possible.
The eerie otherworld that Chris Walsh creates in The Shutterbug Man is a feast for the eyes and is helped along with two aural elements from those other than the auteur: chilling narration by horror-film legend Barbara Steele and the score with a constant sense of foreboding by Chris Alexander. Steele breathes vivid life into Walsh’s script – which has many haunting, memorable lines but I don’t want to spoil them – and again taps into our childhood recollections of being simultaneously thrilled and freaked out while listening to adults read or tell us scary stories. Alexander’s score spookily fills in the outer edges of this dark, uncanny little world.
Like a short story from a dusty, ghastly volume of children’s old-fashioned terror tales found in a cobweb-filled attic, The Shutterbug Man will linger with you long after you first experience it. It bears repeated viewings. Chris Walsh has made the short film available to watch for free at http://www.theshutterbugman.com/, so head over there now and see for yourself why I am so impressed with this magical piece of work.
The Shutterbug Man: (4.5 / 5)