Whenever a horror film does well at the box office, the internet as a collective (or, more specifically, Twitter, sorry, X) likes to announce that “horror is back!” But the truth is, it never really went anywhere. Sure, like most genres it has its ups and downs in terms of general interest and monetary returns, but it’s more often than not a genre you can bet on. It’s an area that allows for specific creativity to flow, for the art of practical effects to flourish, and for the actors to indulge in a sense of subtle-free delivery.
Australia’s relationship with horror hasn’t always been projected with might, but from the annals of the Ozploitation movement in the 1970s through to this year’s supernatural success Talk To Me, with a couple of creature features, questionable slashers and terrorising tourist efforts in between, we’ve had a much stronger relationship with the genre than I suspect many understand, and if we can truly start cornering the market on such, the creativity limits for hopeful filmmakers and storytellers is potentially endless.
One such storyteller who’s taken his notes on genre footing is Shane Anderson, who delights in the deliberate heightened mentality horror films can give way to and revels in the melodrama of building intrigue before letting loose with unbridled passion. Such practices take place across the 7 minutes and 56 seconds of Sonos, a horror short that wears the temperament of the 1970s genre proudly on its blood-soaked sleeve.
The mystery of Anderson’s narrative is there from the jump, with an occult collector (Davis Dingle) meeting with a proprietor (Winnie Mzembe, understanding her assignment) to discuss the purchase of a series of audio tapes that he believes to be haunted. Like some of the best horror efforts the premise here is crisp and easy, and in supplying such it allows Anderson to flex his muscle on how to correctly inject exposition into his story without beating us over the head with incessant dialogue. Show, don’t tell, and what Sonos eventually reveals speaks to evident genre knowledge.
Unlike another short film recently caught, Almodóvar’s queer western Strange Way of Life, which felt unfinished as it ended on a narrative note that demanded further exploration, Sonos has a sense of completion about it. Yes, it makes us want to know more about the collector’s history, the proprietor’s role in acquiring such haunted media, and the general lore overall pertaining to the horror glimpses we are teased without – it must be noted, the effects utilised here are seriously impressive for the evident low budget on hand – but it does so in a way that feels absolute. The ambiguity of some actions and the suggestion of others is a strong hand horror films often play, and Anderson is all too aware.
The atmosphere created here – enhanced by Richard Ferrando‘s building score – is vastly impressive, and the artistry and vision expressed is enough to forgive the film for any of its shortcomings, which, to be fair, are mainly derived from its minimal budget. The type of story that could make way for an intriguing feature length exploration, Sonos is further proof of what Australians are capable of within the genre, as well as continuing Anderson’s own hold on how to drive a story forward with captivation.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Sonos screened as part of the Shorts From Home Programme at this year’s Brisbane International Film Festival, running between October 26th and November 5th, 2023.