Drenched in dread and presented in shadow-filled black-and-white, the French horror short The Scared One (L’Ã©pouvantÃ©; 2016) expertly captures the terrifying feelings that monsters exist and that they visit us at night in our bedrooms. Brothers Romain and Thibault Lafargue wrote and directed this chilling piece, which addresses these and other childhood fears in classic scary-storytelling fashion.
A very young boy (Hadrien Boulme-Alberti) watches through his bedroom window as his father (Olivier Banse) puts together one of the freakiest looking scarecrows I have ever seen in a movie; that’s no exaggeration. As if that weren’t bad enough, the scarecrow directly faces the boy’s window, causing the youngster a great deal of concern as he gets ready for bed. After night falls, he begins to hear eerie sounds and, unfortunately for him, the frightening occurrences don’t stop there.
Romain and Thibault Lafargue construct a marvelous cinematic atmosphere in which shadow, light, and what is just beyond what viewers and the young boy can see are consummately paired with hair-raising sound design and Adrien Beunas’ often unsettling score. Basile Lebayle’s striking cinematography wonderfully captures the action. The set design of The Scared One is unique in that it is free of trappings that pin it down to any certain time frame. The events could just as easily be taking place today as they could half a century or so ago. This plays into the timelessness of childhood fears as the short certainly hit a nerve with me, recalling moments when hearing a spooky sound in the dark sent my young heart thumping.
Hadrien Boulme-Alberti is absolutely convincing as the frightened young boy who clutches his stuffed animal for comfort and tries to hide in dark places whenever he is overcome by fear. In a film short on dialogue, his facial expressions carry his performance to a high level. Though Olivier Banse has far less screen time as the father, he does a splendid job in his role. Arnaud PrÃ©chac also deserves note but to say exactly why would mean going into spoiler territory.
An interesting mystery beneath the surface level of the story is hinted at when – this happens near the beginning of the short, so I don’t consider it a spoiler – viewers are meant to wonder what the father is raising the scarecrow to protect himself and his son against, and the youngster questions why it is necessary when his father should be the one doing the protecting. The Scared One works on a primal goosebump-raising level but offers more than simply that in the psychology department.
With The Scared One, Romain and Thibault Lafargue prove themselves to be a duo who know how to craft a first-rate horror tale with a flair for true suspense, an eye for atmosphere, and an aptitude for finding the psychology in a story. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for their next film, but in the meantime, I’ll be happy to watch this effort numerous times. The Scared One has just begun its international film festival run and I can’t recommend highly enough that you watch for it at a fest near you.
The Scared One: (5 / 5)