Goodnight, Gracie


“In the Name of Right, Get Out!”

Main Cast: Courtney Gaines, Caige Coulter

Director: Stellan Kendrick

I truly believe you can make an effective horror short in 3 ½ minutes.  I do not believe GOODNIGHT, GRACIE is that film.

Written and directed by Stellan Kendrick (STRING!), this 2017 short is about Gracie (Caige Coulter, a then-9-year-old girl with 34 acting credits to her name), a devout girl who wakes up one night when one of the several crosses on her wall falls.  Then she hears a scream from downstairs.  She creeps out to the landing with her Jesus flashlight and looks down to see her stepfather, Billy, hacking her mother to pieces with an ax.

Gracie runs back into her room, opens her Bible and buries herself under her blanket to try and pray away the evil while Billy is trying to get into her room.

I won’t spoil the ending, and, unfortunately that means I have to stop right here in my plot summary.  Did I mention GOODNIGHT, GRACIE is only 3 ½ minutes long?  When I saw the length, my first thought was at least it won’t take long to watch.  My next thought was that it had better be a hell of a story to pack it all in in just 3 ½ minutes.

Spoiler: it wasn’t.

I mean, it wasn’t BAD.  What’s here is well-made.  Billy—played by an unrecognizable Courtney Gaines (CHILDREN OF THE CORN, THE BURBS)—is menacing while Coulter gives it her all as well.  The look of the film is professional enough.  By that I mean for such a small short film, it doesn’t look like it was just thrown together one night on a cell phone, it looks like there was honest production behind this one.

I just wish there’d been more STORY.

The only reason I know Billy is the stepfather’s name is that’s how it’s listed on IMDb.  It took me THREE viewings of GOODNIGHT, GRACIE and a pause on the family photo, as well as looking at the IMDb summary written by Kendrick to know for sure Billy is her stepfather because these details are never spelled out in this very short run time.  This is just lazy storytelling and I can’t support it.

And I’m sure the dialogue was kept to a minimum to add tension and keep the pace moving, but, jeez, it feels like there is so much backstory here we’re not getting, so much that would make this a more satisfying watch.  As it is, I’ve seen it, it was over in a blink and, in a week I’ll barely remember a single detail about it.  If I do remember anything, it’ll just be that Courtney Gaines IS still working in Hollywood.  Good for him!

It was only on my THIRD watch that I tied in the falling cross to the scream from her mother and I took that to be an evil entity entering the house and entering Billy to set off this chain of events.  And while that’s all well and good, look, I shouldn’t have to watch your film three times to catch details like that.  And that could very well be an assumption on MY part from 50 years of watching horror movies.  I could be dead wrong.  I’m not saying I need a narrator to spell it all out, but holy crap, give me SOMETHING.  I’m not sure what GOODNIGHT, GRACIE needed, more dialogue, another minute and a half to flesh out some details?  Honestly, anything would have helped.  As it is, there’s just too little here, on screen, to allow me to recommend it.

But if you really want to watch it, you can, for free on YouTube.

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