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Careful what you witness: 15-05-08

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Usually the way I contribute an article or review to the Live For Films website is that I will either offer Phil a piece that I have already written, or he will ask me for something specific that he thinks will work well on the site. Of course, there are often occasions where he will email the LFF team and ask if one of us would like to review a film that has come to his attention. Because I don’t usually check my emails half as often as I should, I typically miss the boat on these offers, as was the case with 15-05-08. However, what I did pick up was a group email sent by a fellow contributor who had initially offered to write the review, an email that read (and I quote), “It is too scary I can’t watch it! Can someone else with bigger balls (or in fact any balls) do it instead?” Obviously, this is when I jumped at the chance to watch the film and offer my services in writing the review, who wouldn’t?

15-05-08 is a short film produced by the Nottingham-based low budget horror company Sick Bunny Pictures, founded by brothers Nikki and Jason Chatwin, and is a film that adopts and pays homage to the found footage genre that has somewhat dominated horror cinema, specifically over the last several years. Paranormal Activity, REC and V/H/S are just a small example of the more popular found footage movies that have been exhibited in the cinemas worldwide over the last decade, a horror sub-genre that was arguably reignited by 1999s The Blair Witch Project (although this was not the first entry into the arena). However, while some are great fun to watch and hugely enjoyable, a number of these films fail in providing genuine scares, which is where 15-05-08 succeeds. Not having to rely on the regurgitated image of the zombified old woman covered in blood or the painfully obvious superimposed/CGI shadow appearing in the corner of the room, 15-05-08 provides a more tangible trauma than the run-of-the-mill supernatural thriller – namely the threat to one’s own sense of security.

15-05-08 screenshot

The film shows a group of teenagers hanging out and drinking late one night who notice a disturbance in an empty house on the opposite side of the street. Knowing that the owners of the house are away for the weekend, the gang decides to document the events as they unfold, and soon become much more involved in the disturbance than they had hoped for. Filmed almost entirely using night vision, the dark and creaky house provides the idyllic setting in this perfectly uncomfortable voyeuristic short, with a well-paced story and perfectly realistic dialogue and acting. I managed to nail down director and co-writer Nikki Chatwin for some questions about the film, and about the inspirations that led to the making of this short.

Paul: You co-own Sick Bunny Pictures with your brother Jason. What are the dynamics of you as a duo, and how did you work together in making this film?

Nikki: It’s so good working with my brother because we’re so close and we work well together and always know what the other one wants. Jason and me practically do everything. I usually come up with the idea but we both bounce ideas off each other, we both have a hand in writing and we both love to get our hands on a camera. We are only really separate in roles when it comes to directing and editing, but once again we both have a major input there too.

How do you feel the found footage genre is contributing to the horror movies of today, and what lead you to use that particular style for this film?

It’s contributing a lot to horror movies today; unfortunately it’s not all great. A lot of people make found footage films because it’s easy and cheap to do so we get a lot of the same crappy stuff which is a shame, but with 15-05-08 we wanted to do something a little different. We chose it for this short because we are big fans of the genre.

What were your inspirations when making this film?

Well at the time we were watching a lot of horror films, but also films like Funny Games, The Strangers and even stuff like Disturbia, as well as a lot of slasher films (which is my favourite genre) which is why 15-05-08 has slasher elements to it. The main inspiration for it though is that we actually thought we had witnessed a break in at a neighbours house and we thought wait this has potential for a short film.

Nikki and Jay

It’s interesting that you mentioned The Strangers and Funny Games, because they are two of my favourite horror films, and there is apparently a Strangers sequel in development. Something that makes them scarier for me at least is the fact that they are not films that rely on the supernatural, and they have characters that are real, which actually makes your film all that more scary. What do you yourself find genuinely scary in a horror film? What elements really make you feel uncomfortable to watch a film?

I totally agree with you – the more a story could appear real, the scarier it is. That’s what make these ‘home invasion’/’terror’ films like Funny Games & The Strangers so creepy – the fact that you may not even be safe in your own house. It’s just terrifying and that’s what we tried to do with 15-05-08. To be honest there isn’t a great deal that scares me in horror films but this idea of home invasion does creep me out. One of the things that make me uncomfortable in films though and even in real life is eyes. Although I will still watch an eye gauge scene, I will be squirming like hell haha.

What movies did you watch when growing up that inspired you to become filmmakers?

I used to watch a lot of old Hammer House of Horror films with my granddad at a young age which really started it off, but it wasn’t until a little later on in life when I would watch films like Halloween, Hellraiser and Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my mum that I knew I wanted to work with horror in some way or another

On the comments left on YouTube, you mention that this is the first of 4 films involving the white masked killers – are the films already planned out or are they going to evolve as you make them?

Well the second one, Untitled Tape, was actually written prior to filming 15-05-08, but the other two are roughly planned out. We plan them to all be different sub-genres moving away from found footage as the series of short films progress

What in your opinion is the ultimate found footage movie?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I feel the best found footage films are the ones very different from the usual supernatural ones, so I’d have to say stuff like the August Underground Trilogy, Poughkeepsie Tapes, Home Movie and even mockumentary/found footage films like Long Pigs and Man Bites Dog.

What Happened on 15-05-08?

15-05-08 does exactly what a horror should do, which is to provide a movie experience that keeps the viewer hooked and is pleasurably uncomfortable to watch. In fact, in its short sixteen minutes, it packs in more suspense filled trepidation than the last two Paranormal Activity films put together, which, let’s face it, have just become parodies of the first installment. But also where 15-05-08 succeeds where many of its predecessors fail is in its ability to provide a substantially more uneasy viewing experience, and more corporeal sense of dread than many of the higher budget supernatural horrors that make it to theatres and home cinema releases. If this is the first of a series, it will be interesting to see where this goes, and what other macabre ideas the brothers have up sleeves.

You can watch 15-05-08 below.

Check out and LIKE the Sick Bunny Pictures facebook page HERE.

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