We return briefly to honoring the Horror genre and Scream with a review of the short film Fear by Steve Kahn
Film shorts and the horror genre go hand in hand, they can provide a great deal of suspense and emotion in a quick hit. Some of the greats of all time have dabbled in horror shorts. Fear is a mind trip and emotional short about a young women whose mind is getting the best of her.
“Fear is visual poem on the emotion of fear – little things spin out of control to mammoth proportions.” – Steve Kahn
I really enjoyed how the film draws you into her panic, you begin to wonder if her fears are more than what she’s manifesting. Jessie Rabideau does a fantastic job capturing the manic reality of “the girl”. We asked Steve and Jessica about the film process and a little more:
- ES: How did the idea for this short come about?
Steve Kahn (SK): Truth be told it was me. My fears inspired me. The germ of the film started out in a completely self-centered way. In my mind a pimple on my face could turn into skin cancer; a vague look from a stranger could belie an unfounded hostile intention. Even, as in the film, an unexplained thump late in the night could send terror running down my spine freezing me solid, paralyzed with fear, as thoughts of demonic possession and evil creatures from hell hid in the shadows ready to jump out at me.
Then, I realized I wasn’t alone. Everyone seemed to be susceptible to those jolts of terror. From anthrax to aliens to fears of our neighbors or of those with different accents or religions or race. Everyone seemed at risk of the fear spiral cascade. I saw it happening all the time and everywhere.
The press doesn’t make things better but often worse. In the media fear stories sell. They are emotional. They get our hearts beating and get under our skin. I would see again and again how TV news and print media would interlace mundane stories with irrational fears to create powerful pieces that would play masterfully on the hearts of an audience who would have to tune in to see how they could be saved. Governments too, and religions, and organizations brilliantly use the irrational to control the masses.
Once taken ahold our fears are never logical and we lose sight of the rational mind. Instead, they are deeply emotional and instinctual which in an instant can send us back to a primordial time when solely magic explained the workings of the world and the human condition was ruled entirely by superstition and mysticism. Fear takes us back to that age. Now lost of our modern-day reasoning powers all threats, real and imagined, big and small — the more hyperbolic the more effective — become possible as our ungoverned thoughts send our hearts spinning wildly out of control. Ultimately it’s not the perceived threats that end up doing harm but rather our reactions, or over-reactions, to them. In “Fear” what my protagonist is afraid of doesn’t hurt her but ultimately what does is her reaction to that very fear.
- ES: What made you go in the direction of suspense and horror?
SK: Horror is fantastic because of its universal nature. Death is something that has fascinated and intrigued man since the dawn of time. What happens when we die? Have not all the world’s religions and myths attempted to answer those questions and sooth our fear of the unknown, and the hereafter?
As a genre horror is a worldwide phenomenon which speaks to its popularity and universality. Intellectually it is easy to dismiss the horror genre as silly but it in fact asks the deepest questions of life, death and the fragile existence of man.
For the concept within FEAR the psychological thriller / horror genera is a natural one.
- ES: Shorts give the director an ability to put such an artistic form to the film, how does Fear stand apart in that aspect?
SK: That’s exactly what I love about shorts. With feature-length films so much exposition is necessary so much of the time. Exposition in film are usually the boring parts – who the characters are, their relationships, their lives, and what the protagonist is fighting for or trying to achieve. A film can be likened to a novel where a good short to a poem where exposition is limited to very little to none.
I had a completely poetic vision for FEAR. I wanted imagery to be beautiful and for each image, to say a full thousand words that would add to the theme and convey my message. To that effect lighting, composition and direction of Jessie was held to a strict high standard.
Even color in post-production was used to unify the imagery and support the theme. For example her skin color reflects her emotional state throughout the film. When she feels nothing, in the beginning, her skin is desaturated and almost grey. When her fears take ahold her pinkish skin makes her look vulnerable. When she becomes brave her skin turns ruddy and olive. On and on.
- ES: What’s next for this film and where will it appear so viewer can check it out?
SK: We’re screening at the Malta Horror Film Festival at the end of October and very exciting about that.
- ES: What’s next in your film making career?
SK: Since FEAR I’ve been quite busy directing commercials and music videos as well as fine tuning FEAR which has been quite a project. A producer collaborator has expressed an interest in turning FEAR into a feature-length film and that is interesting to me yet a difficult one as well. I just don’t know if I could write a feature-length poem on fear which would be my goal.
- ES: Jessie, people may recognize you from America’s Top Model: what was that like? And what have you been up to since then?
Jessie: Ha yeah ANTM was a lot of fun. I made a bunch of awesome friends and it definitely spurred an interest in modeling as I had never tried it before. Reality TV is a little funny, but I’m really grateful for the experience. We shot the show during the summer between my first and second years of grad school (USC architecture) so after it I finished school. Then, I decided to pursue modeling a bit more but now I’m really interested in filmmaking. I’ve been writing and acting lately.
- ES: You had a lot going on in 14 minutes, had did you capture that wide range of inner emotions?
Jessie: Well, it was really one of my first attempts at acting. I wish I had known more about the range of techniques actors use, but Steve helped a lot, and I think I can naturally express a wide range of emotions – I really felt a lot of stuff when we were shooting. I hope we were able to convey some of those moments well enough.
- ES: What do you think happen to our manic blonde friend?
Jessie: She was probably already a bit on edge, but that night it went a little too far with her tripping and falling – and dying! I think many people (especially when they’re home alone) tend to spook themselves.
- ES: You’ve done some other shorts, do you see yourself continuing to pursue acting?
Jessie: I really like making my own films. I’ve written (and acted in) two this year. I see myself making many more in the future years and hope to get better in the process – both in writing and in acting. For the past few months I’ve been taking this amazing acting class, which I absolutely love. So, yes. I’m focusing on really developing my craft. I think acting is fascinating and super difficult. I think that’s partially why I’m drawn to it.
Here’s the trailer for Fear – check it out and enjoy!
~ E.S. Norton ~