Main Cast: Alana Elmer, Bowen Hardin

Director: Justin Harding

In the 2017 horror short LATCHED, a woman retreats to an island cabin with her one-year-old in tow in order to prepare for a new job as choreographer on the season opener for a dance company she admires.  While practicing in the woods one day, she finds the desiccated remains of a creature.  Wondering what it is, she takes it to her only neighbor on the island, Peter, who tells her, “It’s a bat.”

For some reason then, Alana (the woman, played by Alana Elmer, Fear Thy Neighbor) takes the bat into her cabin with her baby and throws it in the trash there.  Instead of, you know, just dumping it back in the woods where she found it.  That night, after pumping—she’s trying to get Bowen (the baby, played by Bowen Harding, The Haunted Museum) “off the boob and onto the bottle”—she accidentally knocks over the pouch of milk she just pumped as she takes Bowen to bed.

The milk, apparently part of a Rube Goldberg set up, runs down along the counter and perfectly into the garbage … right into the mouth of the dead bat which, now that we get a good look at it, looks nothing like a bat at all.

Days go by on the island.  Alana practices her dance moves while baby Bowen looks on.  One day, Bowen is hungry so she takes him inside to get him a bottle only to realize all the milk she’s stored in the fridge is gone.  She texts the baby’s father—it’s never clear if they’re together or not, but neighbor Peter (played by Peter Higginson, LAST RESORT) calls him a “piece of shit”—to ask if animals can get into the fridge because all of her milk is gone.

That night, she puts Bowen to bed and climbs into bed herself only to hear creaking outside the room.  She’s alone in the woods at night, so she has a flashlight beside her bed, and she uses it to see what’s making that creepy noise.  When she sees something in the doorway, something that ducks out of sight as soon as she shines the light on it, she screams and immediately grabs Bowen and heads for the boat to get off the island.

Only problem is, when she turns around the start the motor, then turns back, Bowen is gone.

She sees the creature flying away with him.

Panicking, she runs back to the cabin for a weapon, totally ignores the big ax hanging on the mantle and goes, instead, for the old antler.  Then goes back again for the ax, proving sometimes people in horror movies DO make the smart choice (see also: tried to get off the island the moment she saw something she didn’t like).

When Alana finds Bowen, and then the creature, it’s no surprise to anyone who’s been watching the previous 10 minutes (LATCHED is 16:38) what it wants.

LATCHED was a beautifully shot short (cinematography by Stuart James Cameron, Sugar Showdown), full of stunning drone shots taken above the canopy of this isolated location.  Given better weather and unlimited funds, I would move there with the wife in a heartbeat.  However the weather looked cold, and I think the commute to my day job would prohibit such a move just yet, so I’ll instead just enjoy the awesome cinematography on display in LATCHED.

The story itself (written by Justin Harding, The Haunted Museum, and directed by Rob Brunner, Top Chef Canada) is a little uninspired in terms of execution.  The HEART of the idea, what she finds, what it wants, I can see being a really good spark.  I just think once the conceit is laid out, the rest of the plot beats are pretty straightforward.  There aren’t many surprises here once we get going.

The creature effects were solid, and Jarrett Siddall (The Boys) gives a strong “evil fairy” performance while Vivien Villani’s original score helps carry the tension without being too obtrusive.  Overall, I didn’t dislike LATCHED.  But, again, once you understand what’s going on, it’s just a matter of waiting for those pieces to fall into place so you can get to the credits, then back to your life.

That sounds like a criticism.  I’m trying to word this in a way that praises the short—because it really is well-shot, well-acted, looks and sounds like you want your film to look and sound—without sounding like I LOVED it (because I didn’t), but also without sounding like I hated it (because I didn’t).  I’m just looking for that balance.  I think if I hadn’t seen the climax coming a mile away, I would probably have enjoyed LATCHED more than I did.  As it is, again, I didn’t hate it.  Act 1 had limitless potential for where this thing could go, the set-up with the location, the characters, the isolation, everything.  Act 2 felt a little like, “Oh, okay, yeah I see where you’re going here,” followed by a third act that was more, “Oh, no I REALLY saw where you were going here.  Okay, well, I guess.”

Is it horror?  Definitely.  Is it short?  Yes.  Does it succeed as a horror short?  Sure.  Would I recommend it?  You know what?  I think I would.  Because no matter how predictable I thought the plot was, LATCHED has the feel of a bigger movie.  It looks like something that could be screened in a theater.  I’m definitely NOT calling for a full-length remake, but if this played as a short before, let’s say, ABIGAIL, it wouldn’t feel out of place.  Do with that what you will.

Watch LATCHED free on YouTube.

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