The one or two sentence story has its own long and storied history. The famous—and incorrectly attributed six-word story—“Baby shoes: for sale, never worn” was supposedly drafted by Hemingway to win a bet. Then, there’s also the unsettling story by Argentinian writer, Julio Cortazar: “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.” But it’s the short horror story that has become the internet favorite, as horror fans try to out-scare each other with two-sentence horror stories. The most successful of them rely on atmosphere as opposed to complex plots and draw on long-tested horror tropes.
The tiny horror film functions much in the same way. With very short horror films, the piece needs to rely on our history of fears to create something imminently frightening. THE LITTLE CHAPEL (Richard Schertzer, 2016) relies on such techniques, drawing from Catholicism and ghost story traditions. The film’s story is vague, but its familiar images lead us toward terror. In the narrative, a young woman enters a chapel, seemingly bent on using magic or witchcraft to raise someone from the dead. Under the watchful eye of a series of Virgin Mary icons, the young woman chants her resurrection spell. However, it seems like the words work only too well, and whoever it is, wakes up very angry.
THE LITTLE CHAPEL’s successes lie in its simplicity. Student films can often be overly noisy, incorporation too much information that makes them inchoate and messy. The Little Chapel, however, relies on subtle music cues, darkness, and an iconic atmosphere to create its unease. It’s dark, it’s fun, and it’s the tiniest bit campy—as horror movies should be. While there are some slight aspects that do illustrate its status as a student film (the lighting is a bit amateur, for example), the film has a good sense of pacing and an elegance that elevates above most student attempts.