Writer/director/producer Sandy Collora takes viewers on a 17-minute thrill ride with his creature-feature short Shallow Water. He has crafted a film so suspenseful that every hole in a door, light through a crack in a wall, and footstep in the forest makes you hold your breath in anticipation, and the creature design is quite impressive, as well. The approach is simple but effective, and a whole lot of fun.
Sandy Collora is a creature designer and sculptor who made waves as a filmmaker with the shorts Batman: Dead End (2003) and World’s Finest (2004). He also directed the science fiction film Hunter Prey (2010). Shallow Water is his latest effort, which he envisions as a proof of concept for either a feature length film or as part of a horror, science fiction, and fantasy short-film anthology.
Lisa Roumain stars as a woman on the run from something in a forested area. As she looks for a place to hide during a rainstorm, she stumbles on the grisly remains of people who had been eaten by the thing chasing her. Roumain’s performance is a wordless one, as Shallow Water has no dialogue. Still, she delivers the goods as a terrified person doing her best to survive against something that she has never before encountered. Her facial expressions perfectly capture her character’s highly charged emotions.
With no dialogue in the short, Sandy Collora colors his short film with a pulse-pounding sign design and score, both from Bill Lacey. What sounds like blaring horns during a first viewing takes on a new meaning at the climax of the short. Edward A. Gutentag’s cinematography is top notch, using a combination of stationary camera work and a bit of GoPro-style footage. Most of the film takes place in the outdoors during daylight, with the rest in a shanty. Nothing is hidden in darkness, which leads to my next point, what many creature-feature fans might be keen to know: the creature designs are a blast, and Collora is not the least bit shy about showing them off in bright lighting.
In a cinematic era where generic CGI monsters are par for the course, Shallow Water’s special effects department has done an outstanding job creating a group of water-dwelling creatures with similar yet individual looks to them using practical effects. The attention to detail is marvelous, and the designs recall favorite aquatic movie monsters of yesteryear with an original stamp. The costumes look cool and hold up well under brightly lit scrutiny, with such nice touches as scars and fish netting. I don’t usually publish photos of monsters with my reviews to avoid spoilers, but I am making an exception here because images of Shallow Water’s creatures have been available for viewing for some time now; you can see for yourself how well crafted these designs are.
I very much enjoy Shallow Water for what it is: a short film telling a monster movie tale that begins in what would be either the second or third act of a feature film. This approach is not a new one to short films, which sometimes frustrates viewers who want a backstory or to know what happens after an ambiguous ending. I think that the mystery around the events of what Lisa Roumain’s character encounters is an intriguing one, and I was left wanting more in the most positive way. (Speaking of endings, make sure to keep watching after the ending credits begin to roll for a bit more to the short.) One other minor quibble that some viewers may have is the amount of rain and sunshine from scene to scene but in the grand scheme of things, this easy enough to overlook.
(4.5 / 5)