And They Watched


This is Not an Execution, This is Murder

Main Cast: John Cianciolo, Robin Careless

Director: Vivian Lin

Nightmare scenario #1: You take a job as a winter caretaker in a remote Colorado hotel, thinking this will be the perfect opportunity to get some writing done, and instead you lose control and try to murder your family.

Nightmare scenario #2: You order a taco salad with no beef, only to get home and realize there is indeed beef on it.  You then proceed to smash the taco salad in a fit of rage.

Nightmare scenario #3: You’re a janitor whose job it is to clean the execution booth and one night while doing your job the ghost of the last person executed in Ol’ Sparky appears and straps you into the chair.

This is the premise of AND THEY WATCHED, another Alter short I watched on YouTube.  From 2015, IMDb says this story was “inspired by the … reinstatement of the electric chair in Tennessee”.  Written and directed by Vivian Lin (Killjoys), it stars John Cianciolo (GREY ZONE) as “the custodian” and Robin Careless—what a cool name!—(more known as a costumer on Titans, American Gods, and The Boys) as “the executioner”.


At only 6 minutes and 27 seconds, there’s not much here to work with.  The custodian cleans the window in the booth, notices a handprint on the glass, goes to get more glass cleaner.  While he does so, the ghost of a man who was recently executed—an innocent man, he claims—appears and straps the custodian down while several other spirits look on.

“But I didn’t do anything,” the custodian screams.

“You watched,” the ghost says, and flips the switch.  Credits.

End Spoilers

Sorry for spoiling it, but that’s seriously the entire story, so it was either spoil it or don’t talk about plot at all.  But what do I talk about, then?  The performances?  It was 6 minutes and 27 seconds and the two characters don’t appear onscreen together until 4 minutes in.  Then we have a minute-long flashback, and then back to the present, so we really only have, what, another minute—plus credits—of them acting together to go by.  I could say Cianciolo cleans a hell of a window and had me convinced he was out of glass cleaner and had to go get more.

I will say the effects were pretty good, the makeup on the ghost post-execution.

I usually have a problem with morality tales that don’t have any substance behind them.  If you’re gonna preach to me (THE HERD), at least have a STORY to tell at the same time (also THE HERD).  AND THEY WATCHED?  Not so much on the story, but I still did enjoy what little was here for me.

I got a small dose of horror, then they went on their merry way and I got to come write about it before starting my Saturday.

The pros of a short like AND THEY WATCHED, for me, perfectly illustrate my feelings regarding short stories and how much more I like them over novels.  I love both, no question, but there’s just so much more possibility with a short story.  Short stories aren’t weighed down by the same restrictions most novels are.  A novel has to have a beginning, middle, and end, the main character should go through some change by the end of the book.  There should be rising action, a climax, then resolution.  These are the things you’re taught in writing class.

But a short story?  You can tell a short story that’s just a scene.  If the premise is strong enough, or original enough, you can write a short story in two sentences.  There’s a whole series on Netflix dedicated to Two Sentence Horror Stories.  You can get away with a lot in a short story if the idea is strong enough.

I think the idea behind AND THEY WATCHED holds up.  Lin and company wanted to say something about capital punishment and while I may not have a dog in that fight (I’m just here for the free horror shorts), I respect their right to voice their opinion.  Now, you wanna talk about David Scott (Slasher, IN THE TALL GRASS) and Emily Skoggard (THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER, Damien), the people behind the special effects makeup?  They’re the real stars here.  For my money—for a free YouTube short—the makeup effects here were definitely worth the price of admission, and then some.

I can recommend AND THEY WATCHED just based on the makeup effects and the simplicity of the story.  If you don’t mind a short with a message behind it, this one will give you 6 minutes of enjoyment when you need that horror fix in a hurry.

You can watch AND THEY WATCHED for free on YouTube

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