Directed by: Michael Ballif
Cast: Hailey Nebeker, James Morris, Autumn Russell
A girl runs through the woods, her flashlight beam waving frantically as she looks behind her in terror. She takes cover to catch her breath; blood soaks her shirt. There’s a killer on the loose.
This is how Witching Season Films’ inaugural short begins. Killer on the Loose is an excellently shot, well acted, 15 minute horror film with a fresh twist on a classic tale.
The young woman (a sympathetic Hailey Becker) comes upon a house decorated for Halloween. Blood-stained sheets float in the autumn breeze, illuminated by strands of orange lights. Is it her house? A friends? It’s difficult to know. She enters and takes a deep, shaky breath. Could she be safe? One quick look out the window confirms her fears; a man stands in the yard. He’s tall, he’s menacing, he’s even wearing a hockey mask. Uh oh.
A game of cat and mouse follows as the girl hides and the man (James Morris) seeks. But why is he seeking, and what will happen when he finds it? There’s more than meets the eye with this killer.
The thing that makes Killer on the Loose work is its attention to building suspense. The story itself is fairly simple, which allows director Michael Ballif to focus on the moment-to-moment tension building. This “slow burn” approach is what made films like John Carpenter’s Halloween and Stan Winston’s Pumpkinhead such a success over 30 years ago. Ballif is smart to not try to reinvent the wheel. Instead he uses what other’s have learned to tell his own story.
The title sequence alone is worth the watch. Paper jack o’ lantern’s line neighborhood windows, scarecrows watch over harvested fields, even the local cemetery has been decorated for the occasion. It really evokes the feeling of fall afternoons as well as the magic of the world decorated for Halloween. Not to mention, the music by Slasher Dave is a retro Carpenter-esque synth track that fits perfectly with the visuals.
In fact, the music and sound design are one of my favorite parts of the film. After the young woman first sees her masked stalker, she runs into the living room. There, Randin Graves’ immersive soundtrack gives way to a clever practical sound gag. Our protagonist has run into a room where Night of the Living Dead is playing on the television. Instead of competing, Ballif let’s Romero’s soundtrack take over, borrowing from the older flick’s terrifying chase sequence.
Witching Season Films is an independent film company based in Utah. Although they are connected through all of the major social media platforms, it’s a challenge to find much information on them. Still their concept and mission are right in line with a lot of horror fans favorite properties.
Witching Season Films is a horror film production company formed by filmmaker Michael Ballif. Our first project, “The Witching Season” horror anthology, is a series of short horror films released on YouTube as a free web-series. Inspired by anthology shows such as “Tales From The Crypt”, “The Twilight Zone”, and “Are You Afraid Of The Dark?”, “The Witching Season” delivers originally produced tales of terror, all set during the Halloween season. Fueled nostalgia, the series pays special attention to the spirit of Halloween and reminds us of the magic that exists during this special time of year.
It’s awesome to see people out there making new works of horror. As horror fans, we are a hugely devoted fan base who are always looking for new content. We also get excited for stories that build on to the traditional horror genres. Witching Season Films gets it. They understand why horror fans like what they like, which is probably because they are horror fans themselves.
They have two more shorts out for free on Youtube that you can go watch right now. I’ll be reviewing them later this week. If you like what you see, never fear! The company’s social media have revealed that they’re currently shooting the season finale for a Halloween premiere.
From the perfectly executed concept to nailing the horror movie atmosphere, Killer on the Loose, and the production company behind it, are internet gold. I loved every second of it.