A small SUV screeches to a halt at the mouth of an alleyway. A man jumps out of the driver’s seat and circles the vehicle to drag his girlfriend from the passenger seat. She is crying and begging him to understand that she was not flirting with his friend at a party. Guy throws Emily to the ground, calling her names, and drives away, leaving her to walk alone through the dark alleyway crying and wishing she’d never been born.
Enter Alfred J. Hemlock…a spirit (or is it demon?) who offers Emily a reprieve from her loneliness, a respite from the horrors of her life. All she has to do is agree to die.
Thus begins, “Alfred J. Hemlock” a brand new horror short from writers Edward Lyons and Melissa Lyons. The duo manage in 14 minutes to do what many recent feature length filmmakers have been unable to do in an hour and a half. They create engaging, original characters that actually leave you craving more when the credits role. In many ways, it’s the perfect storm where exactly the right director, producers, writers, and cast of actors came together to make magic in a film that is both scary and fun.
Tristan McKinnon delivers a gleefully frightening performance as Alfred that manages to be one part Beetlejuice, one part Captain Jack Sparrow, and yet, something entirely his own. In his capable hands, Alfred J. Hemlock is a showman, a huckster selling a treacherous bill of goods, and McKinnon embraces the role, completely disappearing into the top hat wearing villain.
Renaye Loryman stars as Emily, Alfred’s victim and foil, with emotional dexterity. She is fragile and broken but she deftly turns that emotional vulnerability into a weapon against Hemlock’s arguments when he pushes her too far.
As a whole, the film works beautifully. Though it takes place in the here and now, Alfred brings an air of Victorian/Edwardian antiquity to this ghost story. It is gritty and dirty and beautiful due to its talented crew.
Simon Harding, the director of photography, has been a camera operator on a host of films from Star Wars Episode III to The Hobbit trilogy. He brings a keen eye to every shot. Meanwhile, costume designer Sarah Hoke’s previous work has included prop dressing on Mad Max: Fury Road. McKinnon told me himself that while he had a good idea of who Alfred was before filming began, it was Hoke’s costume that really cemented the identity for him and helped him inform the decisions for his performance. Likewise, Joff Bush’s score creates a perfect atmosphere at once playful and bristling.
Meanwhile Edward Lyons has been creating original shorts for over a decade, each with a different feel from the one before it. He is a master storyteller and he brought everything he had to create “Alfred J. Hemlock”.
With all of these fine talents, it’s no wonder that it was a finalist in this year’s iHorror Award for short films, nor that it will be making it’s world premiere in the upcoming Bermuda International Film Festival which runs May 1-7, 2017 in Hamilton, Bermuda. The prestigious festival is an Academy Award qualifier in the category of short subject films. This puts “Alfred J. Hemlock” in a place where few horror movies find themselves.
I cannot recommend this short film enough. Alfred and Emily will be telling their stories in festivals around the world and you owe it to yourself to see this one as soon as you can. To keep up with all the latest new, you can follow “Alfred J. Hemlock” on Facebook, their official website, and on Twitter @AlfredJHemlock. Check out the trailer below!