I’d like to start off by saying thank you to first time Writer/Director, Sean Lee for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 10 minute, Horror/Thriller short titled “Sweet Hollow”. Sweet Hollow follows a young woman named Emily (Alice Kremelberg) as she’s driving down a deserted road late at night, on route to visit her sister. Her car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and she’s offered a ride from an attractive stranger whose supposedly heading to the same place. A short way into the car ride Emily realizes there’s more to her new friend than meets the eye. The film also stars Ryan Vigilant and Sean Patrick Folster.
Sweet Hollow has a really clear audio level which is quite rare among first timers films. I was impressed with the audio from the moment Emily began conversing with her sister over the phone. Most of the short is without a conventional score but the last couple of minutes had some well-placed sounds and background music. Alice Kremelberg, who I recognized from “The Taking Of Pelham 123” bares a striking resemblance to the late Brittany Murphy (R.I.P) and she was very easy to watch on-screen here. Vigilant’s character is obviously mysterious but Lee cleverly keeps him in the shadows up until the main turn of events. A certain level of suspense was gauged from a simple decision to use minimal lighting (on a side note, that’s also a complaint of mine more on that later). There’s quiet a good legend behind Sweet Hollow Road and that becomes the films focal point. I was neither here nor there on the finer points of the story, that was until I realized the intelligent reveal in the narrative which totally won me over by the end.
Cinematographer, Henry Zaballos’s style of close framing and hand-held camera work was a miss for me. There’s a key conversation in the car between Emily and James and it was completely shot with the focus on the actors faces, no foreground and no background, not even a wider shot of the car. The problem is that in this case the lighting isn’t prominent enough (I know it was probably intended), to make those frames stand out. They could have included some wide shots, maybe a few shots from the hood anything just to break up all the uneven moving camera stuff. Although the darkly lit approach kept James shrouded in mystery it didn’t make for the easiest viewing at 6 or 7pm (I didn’t have time to watch it really late but I recommend you do, watch it in the darkest setting possible). In Emily’s shoes I’m not sure I’d be so trusting, even with the re-assurance given to her by James. I would’ve liked to have seen her at least express some uneasiness about the situation, try an attempt to call her sister, exhaust all avenues before accepting a last resort, everything is too calm. I thought most of the delivery and acting was solid but there needed to be a heightened reaction from Emily when she discovers what she’s gotten herself into. Alice is probably just going by the script but Lee needed to write his character with much more urgency.
For a first attempt Sean Lee’s, Sweet Hollow is a short and snappy little Thriller. The performances are solid, the audio is clear, there’s some suspense conveyed through careful lighting and the clever narrative leaves a good taste in your mouth. Personally I wasn’t a fan of the camera work. I think a wider approach to three-quarters of the scenes would’ve given this a higher looking production value. The key sequence saw everything looking extremely dark and perhaps Lee could have ventured down additional paths when covering his protagonists bases and not just settled for the convenient. I’m not sure when Sweet Hollow is due out but keep your eyes peeled. It’s well worth ten minutes of your time and quick side note, Sean was a production assistant on the latest Coen brothers film “Hail, Caesar!” (trivia for ya). I look forward to seeing what he brings us next!
My rating for “Sweet Hollow” is 7/10