Directed & Written by Spencer Ryerson.
Starring Victoria Dunsmore.
Phoenix Tale Productions
Not Rated / 12 minutes
As someone who deals with mental illness daily, I always gravitate towards genre fiction that uses its elements to metaphorically represent different psychological processes. Spencer Ryerson’s Coil so perfectly, and cleverly, embodies the essence of anxiety in this body horror tale. Victoria Dunsmore owns this one-woman show with her powerful performance as a woman monstrously overcome.
Francine (Victoria Dunsmore) gets a call from her friend; they’re going to a bridal shower. It doesn’t seem like a previously planned day, at least not to any major extent. Nevertheless, Francine’s fighting her socially anxious feelings. She doesn’t want to be an inconvenience to her friend. So she gets baking, preparing herself psychologically to be around a bunch of people she doesn’t know. After she gets going she feels something in her stomach rumbling, the anxiety’s got her feeling sick.
If only it were just stuck gas, not a ghastly, lengthy worm.
Ryerson gets a double function out of the film’s metaphor of a giant worm-like creature as stand-in for anxiety. The body horror of the worm is symbolic of two things: first, Francine’s stressed out over going to a bridal shower, and the worm in her stomach is anthropomorphic social anxiety making her sick; second, the bridal shower brings up traditional notions of family, which includes the anxiety of motherhood, and this comes to life in vivid detail with Francine having a literal creature slither out of her, it even looks at her with a kind of child-like wonder, too. Coil is such an excellent little film because in twelve minutes Ryerson creates a devastating portrait of mental illness with awesome, shocking imagery.
The Nurturing. 2020.
Directed by Alex DiVincenzo. Screenplay by DiVincenzo & Michael Perkins.
Starring Anythony Gaudette, Marty Smith, & Hannah Fierman.
Not Rated / 8 minutes
★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★★)
Something I enjoy about horror is when stories explore the terrors of childhood, whether through killer toys like Child’s Play or Puppet Master, the moral conundrums of having to kill zombie kids in Cooties, or a short like The Nurturing by director Alex DiVincenzo, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Michael Perkins. DiVincenzo and Perkins’s story is, on the surface, a solid premise to create a few scares. Beneath that the film focuses its the thread thin plot on the horrors of what it means to go back home as an adult to face our childhood anxieties and fears.
Daniel (Anthony Gaudette) gets injured. His significant other Sophie (Hannah Fierman) isn’t around to help look after him, so he goes back home where his mother (Marty Smith) can help him recover. He’s feeling like a kid again, sleeping in the same bed he did as a boy, and his mother, while doing her best to care for him, treats him like that boy again, too. Worse is at night, Daniel hears something under his bed—feeling like a boy again now proves to be a lot more terrifying than it is embarrassing.
When I was an electrician’s apprentice for a time over a decade ago, I had to stay home with my mom for months, and going back to that after living on my own was like regressing in my own adult evolution. The way Daniel feels returning to his childhood home is very real, and it gives this semi-supernatural story a sense of realism because of it. The Nurturing is, above all, an interesting exploration of how our childhood fears never really leave us. Daniel’s experience with a monster under his bed shows how those things we think we left in our younger years may not have gone anywhere, they might be lurking where we left them, and they could return in adulthood with a vengeance. Daniel’s broken leg ushers in a figurative return to childhood with mom looking after him as if he were a boy, paralleled with his later literal return to childhood when the presence beneath the bed transforms Daniel into a boy again via fear. DiVincenzo’s film could have used an extra edge to make it a little more frightening, though the suspense is still heavy, and despite the plot simplicity it got my brain working; can I really ask for more from eight minutes of horror?