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Short Film Review: Halfway House – “A creepy, atmospheric short film”

Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, A Reckoning) has turned his hand to directing and the results have been most pleasing. His 2013 short film, Grandpa, teased us with creepiness and now he is back with another short, Halfway House.

As well as writing and directing, Simpson also stars alongside Phoebe Ashford in a fantastically creepy and atmospheric short. You can see that his directing skills have improved since Grandpa, making everything tighter and smoother. The potential shown in that earlier short film is blossoming in Halfway House.

With the tagline, “not just your average, middle-class, suburban home invasion movie,” you get the general idea. However, there is a whole lot more going on in the film. We see Simpson and Ashford as Joseph and Stazi. Just a normal couple living in a normal home. Yet strange things begin to happen – odd noises, things moving around. We have all experienced that kind of thing and know how unsettling it can be, even though we know there is usually a rational explanation for it.

Events escalate with items disappearing or being moved outside so the police are called. A couple of detectives, played by Anna Burgess and Nicholas Politis, show up. With nothing to go on the police are no use. Events keep escalating until Joseph and Stazi realise that they are not alone! To say anything more would spoil things

Beautifully shot in black and white, the short cranks up the tension wonderfully. You can see the desperation pouring from Joseph as he tries to make sense of what is happening in their house. Once they discover what is causing all the strangeness a sudden decisiveness overtakes the couple and both Simpson and Ashford do an excellent job portraying this.

Like any good short film, as well as telling a tale that interests you, it should also leave you asking questions. Halfway House does not let us down. It could have ended a couple of minutes earlier than its 15 minute run-time and still worked well, but the final moments elevate it to something more, something bigger.

To be honest it was the ending that really got me. I had taken things for granted – a spooky home invasion or ghost story with nods to Poltergiest and Evil Dead – but then it threw me for a loop and left me wanting to see more. You could look at the ending in a number of different ways and, despite watching the film a couple of weeks ago, I keep thinking about it. Each time I come up with a different interpretation as to what it all meant. The fact it has stayed with me for a while is a sign of something special.

The fact Leslie Simpson wrote this as well as directed and starred shows just what a talented chap he is. He has got many different directions in which he could go.

The film isn’t perfect. While the story is solid, the editing could have been tightened up in places, the music toned down a little and a few shots here and there could have been done differently. It’s just my opinion and others may feel differently. They’re only minor criticisms for what is a lovely atmospheric, creepy short film that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Leslie is hoping to get funding together to turn this into a feature and I would love him to succeed.

This is only Simpson’s second turn behind the camera, but if he keeps on improving like this then I cannot wait to see what he does next.

If you get the chance be sure to give this one a watch.

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Poster design by Matt O’Neill

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