Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Forte Pictures and Writer/Director, Andrew Hamer for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 8 minute Horror/Thriller short, “Three Skeleton Key”. The year is 1921. Just off the U.S coastline on the small island of Three Skeleton Key, a ship runs aground on nearby reefs after ignoring a lighthouse beacon. The lighthouse crew make a shocking discovery of something on board the ship. The film stars Robert Fleet (J.Edgar), Paul Rae (Texas Chainsaw 3D), Dan White and Greg Perrow.
Hamer’s 1920’s framework is perfect for a concept like Three Skeleton Key. After all, I don’t know how frequent lighthouses figure into modern sea travel and navigation, so this may not have worked with any other parameters. The set design, character arcs and color grading all fit the structure accordingly. The audio track is sharp and the lighthouse richly lit. In addition, each of the exterior night shots look good as well. Aaron Grasso’s cinematography is what’s truly driving the high production value of Three Skeleton Key. The framing is slick and there’s a lot of gentle zooming and seamless transitioning between shots. The highlight is an exterior shot of the rising waters as the barge begins to draw closer to the reef. The dialogue is simple but sets the scene, and all four of the performances are natural.
While the visuals on display during the film’s climax are of a high standard (given the low-budget), the ending left me thinking “Was that all?”. Now that would usually be a good feeling to have in the confines of a short film (implying that you’ll hopefully see the filmmaker elaborate on the idea at some point), but sadly that wasn’t the case here. I thought Andrew might have opted for a “Lovecraftian” visual touch rather than the eventual outcome.
Three Skeleton Key is just Andrew’s second short film, and what a fine film it is. Atmosphere wise, it’s got a vibe of similar content from “The Outer Limits” and “The Twilight Zone”. The 1920’s aesthetics are fantastic, the performances are engaging and the cinematography is wonderful. I was really looking forward to seeing what the exodus from the ship was, but once it was revealed I was left rather stumped and let down, the only dampener on an otherwise great 8 minutes. Three Skeleton Key is a superb short and I look forward to seeing what Andrew does next. Keep an eye out for this one soon, it’s currently on the festival circuit!
My rating for “Three Skeleton Key” is 8.5/10