Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vicious Vignettes - The Open Window

Tonight I thought I would turn my attention onto something a bit different.  Tonight I want to look at a short film that made the rounds back in the 80's and even possibly early 90's.  Cable channels like USA would often show short films to fill space when a movie ran short and such....especially on shows like Saturday Nightmares or Up All Night.  They were often strange little shorts heavy on atmosphere and light on plot and that suits me just fine.
Tonight's offering is a take on the classic short story by Saki (H.H. Munro) published in his 1914 book of short stories, Beasts and Super-Beasts.  The story revolves a man named Framton Nuttle (!) who is out in the country on doctors orders. See, Mr Nuttle has a nervous condition and needs rest and relaxation to calm them.  His sister sends him to the house of Mrs. Sappleton to stay.  There he can repair his frazzled nerves while still remaining socially active to a point.
Upon arrival, Mr Nuttle is met at the door by Mrs. Sappleton's 15 year old neice, Vera.  She takes him into a back room with a large french windows.  While they wait for Mrs. Sappleton to come down, Vera tells Framton of her Aunt's tragedy (her words not mine).  

It would appear that three years ago her Uncle and his son went hunting with their hunting dog as they always do.  They became lost and wandered into a swamp, sinking to the bottom where gases were trapped and they were burned alive.....their bodies never found.  Her aunt leaves the french window open convinced that her husband and son will come back home.  Vera goes on to tell him that her son always sings "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again" on their return trip.
Mrs. Sappleton comes down and introduces herself to Framton and tells him that her husband and son are out hunting but she expects them back any moment.  He desperately tries to change the topic of conversation, but to no avail when she stands up and points out the window saying "There they are!" as we hear the stains of someone singing "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again".

Framton looks out the window, terrified and sure enough sees the men walking through the field.  The hunting dog running ahead of them, barking.

Are they ghosts haunting the grounds?  The undead returned to life?  Specters, Ghouls or something else all together?  I shan't ruin the twist for you here, but I HIGHLY recommend tracking this little gem down on YouTube to find out.  Or pick up a copy of Beasts and Super-Beasts and read the short story.  Either way, you won't be disappointed.
This short could very well be construed as horror-lite.  There are no jump scares, no gore, nothing of that variety.  What it DOES have is an odd atmosphere that I can only describe as late night.  You know exactly what I'm talking about....that feeling that creeps over the strange things you watch at two in the morning after you've had a two liter of Dr. Pepper and gorged yourself on pizza rolls and microwave egg rolls.  You're half asleep as whatever movie you watching ends and then suddenly, this begins to un-spool before your bloodshot eyes.  Yeah.  THAT feeling.  This has it in spades.  Along with that campfire story kinda feel.  Because, literally most of the film is Vera telling Framton the story.  No flashback scene.  Just her telling the story to Framton.  Some might call it boring, but I think it's quite effective.

I remember watching this one waaaay back in the day on a late Friday or Saturday night most likely exactly like the one described in the paragraph above.  I forgot all about it until I was recently falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube searching for old Saturday Nightmare, Up All Night, MonsterVision, Commander USA, etc videos for a completely unrelated project.  
I've got some more of these type of shorts that I'll be reviewing soon and hunting down more as well.  If you know of any short films that were aired on cable networks in the 80's/90's like this, send 'em my way!  The Midnight Cinephile is hungry for more!

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