The masterminds behind UK-based production company Bloody Cuts present a superlative achievement with their latest effort, the folk-horror creature feature The Birch. The otherworldly atmosphere in this short film is palpable and a sense of dread drips in each frame.
Shaun (Aaron Ward) is viciously bullied by fellow student Kris (Charlie Venables). Shaun’s ailing grandmother (Corrina Marlowe in a touching performance) tells him about someone – “she” – in the nearby woods who protected her when she needed it. She assures him that “she” will protect him, too. Armed with an occult book and an amulet, Shaun heads to the woods for protection, with Kris following in close pursuit. What transpires after that leads to a bloody, thrilling climax.
Writers/directors/editors/producers Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton fashioned their screenplay from a story by producer Cliff Wallace, who also designed the film’s creature. Flawlessly paced and presented, The Birch is one of the most impressive pieces of horror cinema this year, no matter the length. It reminds me of British horror films of decades past but with an original tone, using updated savagery and cinematic techniques. Franklin and Melton use beautifully framed shots captured gorgeously by cinematographer Jonny Franklin.
Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton build two frightful worlds – one natural, one supernatural – quickly and efficiently, aided greatly by earnest, believable performances from the cast. Aaron Ward gives a top-quality turn as the tormented Shaun and Charlie Venables plays his bully character with a frightening, realistic quality. The sound department and composer Patrick Jonsson lend an eerie aural vibe to the goings-on. Cliff Wallace’s special effects makeup is astonishing, and is something you will likely want to rewatch many times.
The Birch is the latest entry into the Bloody Cuts oeuvre. It continues the collectives’ tradition since 2011 of creating anthology-style short horror films. Bloody Cuts has teamed up with Crypt TV to present this terrific short online. You can watch it for free at bloodycuts.co.uk/blog/the-birch-a-new-horror-from-bloody-cuts-and-crypt-tv/.
The Birch: (4.5 / 5)