There is hardly a more unsettling atmosphere to find one’s self in than that of humanity’s disheveled past. Abandoned structures are not only a haunting look back at what once was, but also a symbolic foretelling of what all shall eventually become. The death of man’s creation can be just as powerful as the death of man itself. A process so certain, it’s only malleable aspect would be the amount of physical decay the particular housing apparatus would endure. Regardless of such however, they are also a most fascinating part of society’s closeted skeletons. As a teenager in high school, visiting the urban exploration website Dark Passage was a favorite way to pass excess time in my computer classes. It provided me a look into harrowing visuals I’d dare not pursue myself(at the time at least). Mainly because of the ever so common forewarnings of trespassing laws, unsafe environmental conditions and of course, the dangers of who might be there waiting for such an unexpecting visitor. Violent squatters, estranged criminals and brooding cultists were always the primary scapegoats for such lurking terror. Even when such an edifice is not abandoned, but rundown to the point of blatant equivalency, the same effective lore can yet be applied to such things.
Commune is a short horror film directed by Thomas Perrett. In this short, a rather lonely man named Tom(Tom Weller)takes up the job as the caretaker for a dilapidated house in London while the company who owns the property cannot do so themselves. His instructions once arriving on the premises are easy enough. Basically to make sure no extra damage is done to the already battle scarred remains of what was once a potential hippy commune. With clutter lining the walls and lighting fixtures barely illuminating their assigned rooms, we get the feeling that this place is not only unfit, but no longer meant for general inhabitance. With creaking floors and its seasoned plumbing ducts giving-off near demonic sounds when operated, it’d be difficult to settle on a less drastic conclusion. We as the viewer are eased into the fray by being shown glimpses into the housing unit’s past life through expired photographs and subtle placement of items made by some well-thought out production design. However, the atmospheric detection of previous tenants comes to a frightening halt when the appearance of a seemingly vile entity takes place. With said stranger’s ominous words of “Join Us” swiftly becoming a reoccurring trait, the audience shall now conclude the existence of a larger threat at play here. But of course it’s just a dream, right? There’s no way all these unexplainable happenings can be signs of an actual “presence”, can they? This is where Tom’s story begins to determine otherwise.
Although a creepy and well built-up reveal, the idea of a supernaturally empowered shadow cult tormenting a housing structure’s tenant can only be as effective as the film’s production value allows it to be. Commune is able to succeed on this aspect solely due to it understanding & utilizing its locale’s strengths. While in a dreary, dying building, it always helps to emphasize how off-putting the environment is to those peering in from a safe distance. Using darkness and eerie lighting effects to attract the viewer’s eyes toward a specific corridor for example is not just effective in this sense, but allows for some beautiful imagery. One thing that really stands out in this film though, is the sound design. The auditory effects are both well rendered & finely placed in order to create the precise creep out factor I’m sure they were going for all along. From the dark being’s vocal tones, to the echoing voices of the house itself – heard in the form of creaks and moans – much applause is to be given to some excellent audio work by sound designer Robin Green. Of course, one can’t avoid discussing music as a key aspect of this area as well. The original score presented here almost doubles as an extension of the household’s demented nature. Mike Payne’s soundtrack personifies not only Tom’s frantic emotional state, but also syncs with the house’s already distorted ambiance.
Stylistically, Commune pulls the required punches needed in order to make the audience feel some of the fear resonated through the protagonist. It’s a traditional, yet thoughtfully executed horror romp that shows prowess in the team that pulled it all together. Though it is a very simple story, the attention to detail provided by the production designer(s)actually helps emphasize how rewarding the concept actually is. With camerawork reminiscent of Sam Raimi and lighting effects that signify that of Lucio Fulci, Perrett has created a love song to the very genre in which the film finds itself. That notion alone allows for an instant connection with a very welcoming horror minded demographic. Like I said early on, checking out creepy, semi-abandoned abodes is primarily taboo due to who else you might find there. Moreover, because cults were always on that very list of “Whom you’d rather not stumble upon”, this film does the trick at teaching us one valuable lesson; Don’t talk to strangers who can appear out of thin air. Never a good life decision.
Runtime: 16 min
Overall Score: 3.5/5
Commune is currently making steady rounds on the festival circuit. Inspired in part by true events, the film attests to how cinematic everyday life can be interpreted.
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