Folklore-based horror meets babysitter-in-peril fright fare in the Canadian short film The Whistler. Writer/director Jennifer Nicole Stang offers up an intriguing spin on Pied Piper tales, introducing a creepy villain who deserves a full-length expansion of his story.
Lindsey (Karis Cameron) is charged by her parents with a sudden evening of babysitting her younger sister Becky (Baya Ipatowicz). When Becky’s bedtime story puts a lighter spin on a local folk tale, Lindsey tells the youngster the allegedly true version of a man who led more than 100 virgins to their death, vowing at his hanging to come back from the dead and take the children once again.
Seasoned horror movie viewers can guess in which general direction this story is headed, but Stang adds some interesting new elements to the mix. Some creepy moments and a jump scare occur before Stang raises the tension to an eerie level, with some striking visuals set in a forested area and the reveal of the legendary villain. Special makeup effects artists Chantal Ratcliffe does a fine job with this chilling character. Naim Sutherland’s cinematography is top notch, and Emmett Lee Stang’s piano-and-strings score blends in perfectly with what unfolds on the screen.
Cameron is terrific as the older sibling, and she and Ipatowicz play off each other well, giving the sisterly relationship an air of authenticity. Viewers get to know the two characters well before the titular terror comes calling.
The Whistler offers up some symbolism that would benefit from further exploration, and some viewers might want a bit more from the ending. Overall, though, this fine-looking, well-acted, and well-paced short whets the appetite for a full-length dive into the story of its title character.
The Whistler screens at the The Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, November 22–27 at The Royal Cinema in Toronto.