It must be getting increasingly difficult to make effective “monsters under the bed” and “monsters in the closet” horror shorts, with so many variations on the theme in both short-film and feature-length outings. Writer/director/editor Joseph Covello shows that it is still possible, however, in his Canadian short film He Comes at Night.
Covello does this by using tried-and-true classic approaches, such as letting viewers’ imaginations run rampant as he cranks up the tension without initially showing too much of whatever it is that is scaring his young protagonist Alexa (Georgia Rickerby), and milking every ounce of suspense possible without resorting to jump scares.
Alexa is playing quietly in her bedroom while her mother Rosemary (Mallory Holmes) argues on the phone with the girl’s father. Obviously there are family problems, and they are affecting Alexa’s sleep. Matters aren’t helped any with a news report about a missing child on television. When it is time for bed this night, Rosemary dutifully checks under Alexa’s bed and tells the little girl that there is no such thing as monsters. Later that night, though, Alexa finds out just how untrue that statement is.
Covello shot the film in his childhood bedroom, with set design that evokes the years of things going bump — and in the case of this short, creak — in the night that many of us went through. Steven McDonnell’s cinematography is terrific, with some fine usage of Alexa’s perspective in her bed.
He Comes at Night is a proof of concept for Covello’s upcoming feature film inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow. It’s a fine short slice of fear-fare cinema that promises big things for Covello, and it is great to know that he plans to expand this world from his childhood bedroom to a larger universe.(4 / 5)
He Comes at Night screens as part of FilmQuest, which runs October 29–November 6, 2021 in Provo, Utah, with a virtual version from October 29–November 14. For more information, visit http://www.filmquestfest.com/.