Busy, frazzled parents of young children know how frustrating it can be to hear their youngsters ask “Why won’t you play with me?” in a frustrated tone. As the short horror film Peek-A-Boo illustrates, sometimes it might be better not to get involved with kids’ games.
Writer and director Mark Lawson also stars as the father of a young girl named Sally (Josie Miller). As Peek-A-Boo opens, she talks to her closet while her dad is busy multitasking because his wife is away on a trip. Hiding her face under a red handkerchief, Sally startles her dad in the kitchen. He is trying to rehearse for an acting audition, prepare lunch, and keep the house straight, but all Sally wants to do is play “the game.” Dad hears a strange sound but chalks it up to noisy neighbors. Soon, night falls, the lights in the house go out, and strange things happen as Sally seems to be playing peek-a-boo rather than sleeping.
Mark Lawson gives a firmly believable turn as the good-hearted father who just needs a little while to himself. His performance shows considerable chops as he juggles his many tasks, unaware that something is amiss in his home. Josie Miller does well as his daughter, who is frustrated for her own reasons and displays it with pouting, a wrinkled nose, and “I’m not listening to you, Daddy” body language. The pair feels like a real father and daughter, which makes it easy to invest in their characters and therefore the outcome of the tale.
Mark Lawson’s script is well-paced and its story delves into the classic childhood themes of monsters in the closet, imaginary friends, and empowerment through play. His directing debut is solid and admirably balances the father and daughter’s relationship with the spooky elements of the story.
Kieron Estrada, director of photography, does a commendable job. I especially enjoyed a particular scene shot from the perspective of one of the characters. Anna Mackin designed and created something that would result in a spoiler if I wrote more about it, so suffice it to say that she deserves mention for a job well done. Composer Rebecca Kneubuhl’s often-eerie score uses a variety of instruments; I was partial to her brooding cello strokes. Picture and sound editor Casey Hayward adds some creepy sound design.
Peek-A-Boo is clearly a labor of love – in the best sense of the term – for Mark Lawson. It’s quite obvious that he poured his heart into this short film and heart is an element that can’t be faked. I look forward to his future fright film projects. The short made its world premiere at Shriekfest in Los Angeles in October and it is now available to watch free online at https://vimeo.com/133799391.
Peek-A-Boo: (3.5 / 5)