Whether or not we admit it to ourselves, I believe everyone enjoys a good horror film. The interesting thing about this genre is that the description means different things to different people. Not all horror movies have to consist of gore and on-screen violence. The best ones, it seems, relies on finding the unconscious elements that make us uncomfortable and puts pressure on them. In the new short film Hearth, that pressure point involves tampering with our sanctuary, our home.
Hearth, the new film by Sophie B Jacques, is a chilling tale of unknown circumstances that could occur at rental properties. Emile (Marilyn Castonguay) comes back to her flat after a seemingly lovely couple (Marianne Farley and Joel Martin) rent her place for a weekend. What she doesn’t know is their true intention for their stay, one that she is better off never finding out about.
The concept of utilizing people’s homes as a rental property is hugely popular across the world. It brings an air of normalcy and connection into our travels, a way to truly experience life outside of our collective boxes. There has been some stories of homeowners who have corrupted the experience, but not much focus has been placed on the ones who are doing the renting.
Hearth brings this to light, immediately burrowing into our fear of violation of our personal space. As much as we would like to forget, it’s hard to really get to know a person at their core, and that is exceedingly more accurate with strangers. There wasn’t any gore or scare tactics used, instead Jacques focused her attention on a real fear deep inside people are uncomfortable in addressing. For me, this is what made the film so unnerving.
This is intensified when you watch Hearth and experience the brilliant way Jacques and her production team formulated the shots. Instead of jumping between the past and the future of the events, they play out simultaneously on screen. Embedded in each scene, the audience not only observes Emile as she does a walk-through of her home, but also witness what actually occurred during her time away. This unique composition also intensifies the disturbing tone of the film. The audience becomes afraid that Emile is going to find evidence of the gruesome event that happened in her home or that the event will come back to haunt her.
This fear of discovery carries throughout the film until the very end. The audience is so trained on the jump factory of other films that we end up jumping at unnecessary moments out of preparation. The film then becomes convoluted in its completion. Is the film really that frightening, or are we as an audience making it scarier than it really is? In either case, the film ends with a release, yet we might not know from which aspect.
At just about 11 minutes, Hearth has become one of my favorite thrillers. Not only is the film composed with distinction, the uncomplicated construction of the story makes it the sturdy. There doesn’t need to be elaborate acts of violence or involved story to make its mark as a brilliant film. It’s an intense ride that will leave the audience shaken.
Written by Lisa M Mejia
Images provided by J-P Bernier