Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to Midnight Shiver and Producer, Alison Pringle for allowing me early access to an online screener of the 10-minute Horror/Thriller short “Murder Ballad”, Written and Directed by Sergio Guerra. Murder Ballad opens to a woman (played by Hannah Reese) frantically searching her bathroom for paraphernalia to tend to the stomach wound acquired by her criminal ex-husband (Daniel Van Thomas) during a recent robbery. Suddenly there’s a knock at the door. On the other side, a mysterious preacher (Frantz G. Saint Louis Jr) who speaks in rather cryptic tidings as the night comes to take a dark turn.
I had no idea what I was in store for when Murder Ballad began rolling but I quickly realized it was something very well polished. Alonso Homs (who served as a stereographer on “The Great Gatsby”) delivers stunning cinematography centered around subtle camera movements with perfect lighting setups. One of the most memorable set pieces being the way in which the light bounces off the basement walls of the old home. The audio track is really sharp and the score is fittingly eerie, helping to sell the isolation of both the home itself and Lucinda’s current plight. The interaction between her and Deacon (the preacher) is an intense one, to say the least. Calling to mind the likes of character meets in some of the Coen brother’s best works. All three performances are stellar and the scenes between Reese and Thomas feel purely instinctive around that threat of violence which is ever-present. Reese, in particular, finds that discomposure at will. My only minor complaint is in regard to some of the vague elements surrounding the resolution.
Murder Ballad is just Guerra’s second short film and it’s a truly masterful one at that. It boasts superb production value consisting of gorgeous photography, succinct sound, a great score, and three powerful performances. The edit comes together really tightly, Lucinda makes for a strong protagonist, and there’s a Coen Esq feel to the suspense of the piece. A couple of nitpicky clarity related remnants were the only thing I could mar here. Murder Ballad is one of the best short films of 2019 and you’ll be able to see that for yourself come the 15th of October!
Murder Ballad – 9/10