Writer/director Ryan Oksenberg balances the macabre and the meditative, the ghoulish and the gorgeous, and the pensive and the putrid in his beautifully shot horror short Together. Characters suffering from damaged souls and physical sickness find themselves in close quarters with one another, and the result is an intriguing, contemplative work.
Arielle Hader (of Recovery and Stained, both 2019) stars as Julia, the owner of a biohazard remediation cleaning service who, in a desperate time crunch, hires a man named Clayton (Clayton Farris of the American Horror Story and Scream Queens TV series) to help with a gruesome job. Clayton throws himself into his work, disposing of the blood and body parts in a stomach-churning manner. Julia is disgusted by his actions and wants no part of him, but he insists he has an illness, and besides, he caught her writing a fake suicide note.
Oksenberg fills his short with parallels. Though abundant gore is on display, Together is filled with beautiful cinematography courtesy of J.D. Butler; a peaceful, idyllic setting is shattered by a sudden act of violence; Julia is running her business to deal with her emotional issues, while Clayton is doing what he does because of a physical need; and amidst grief, there is humor.
Together is a reflection on death, and how people choose to address their pain and heartache surrounding it. Besides being expertly crafted and acted, and having a superb story, the short packs an emotional wallop certain to linger with viewers longs after its closing credits end.
Together screens at Nightmares Film Festival, which runs in Columbus, Ohio from October 24–27.(4 / 5)