Cross the haunted past aspect of The Shining with Jaume Balagueró’s To Let. Toss in some creepified fairy tale references then strip the whole thing bare. You may very well end up with something like Tom Perrett’s Commune.
This is actually a semi-repost from a number of years back in an earlier (2016) iteration of this blog. I saw a recent post from Tom Perrett recalling his short film, so I thought it a good idea to revisit my original review. Here’s how the whole thing started.
Blogferatu has a page on The Twitters. We’re all in this together, so I follow many of the blogs, podcasts, indie authors, and indie films/filmmakers I come across. Pretty much as a matter of course, I followed Commune.
To this day I am so glad I did.
First, I got a polite, fairly standard acknowledgement for following plus a link to the trailer. The trailer has a simple enough jumpscare, but it worked, so I just had to see the whole thing.
I messaged Commune’s Twitter page asking where I could see the film. Much as I’d love to have caught the premiere screening back then at the London Independent Film Festival, that was/is kind of a haul from Norfolk, Virgina. Perrett responded saying they were hoping to get the film into some US festivals, but I could see the online screener if I was up for reviewing it.
The scenario is, again, simple enough. One might be tempted to say too simple (Perrett himself suggests, on one level, it’s “a man walking around an old house”). It would be unfortunate to succumb to such temptation.
Commune opens with an agent letting the protagonist, Tom (Tom Weller), into a house. A voicemail from The Guardian Agency describes the house (built in the 1930s), Tom’s duties (basically keep out squatters), and mentions the place once housed a commune.
The interior is a shambles, but there’s a sense that the house has been occupied a number of times (and recently) since the 1930s: board games strewn about, a fairly new looking ping pong table, a baby carriage (that can’t bode well).
Weller is good. His character is ill at ease and more than a little at that. I fully buy into his apprehension which Perrett capitalizes on with effective use of some techniques horror gamers will be familiar with.
For one thing, everything creaks: walls, floors, ceilings, doors, bookshelves.
Everything. All the time.
Like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, sound in Commune maintains Weller’s (and our) constant atmosphere of menace. The bending and blurring of the scenes that accompany the appearance of the malevolent spirit is another unsettling technique in games like Amnesia and Hektor. It’s even better here.
Our dread is further reinforced by things that go unexplained: the squatter Tom encounters, the attic, the commune alluded to in the first minute of the film (and its creepy Rosicrucian-like flyer similar to the ads in the tabloids my grandmother used to read).
Nor is there any clarification of what is a dream or a flashback showing the haunter. Either is arguable, but I’m inclined toward dream. It starts after Tom turns in for the night, and there’s a disconcerting Alice In Wonderland image.
Dream, flashback, interestingly it doesn’t matter. We don’t need to know definitively. Both work.
It’s worth noting that there are other references to fairy tales and children’s stories. In the dream sequence, there’s a children’s book, The Wolf And The Seven Little Kids, itself a Grimm’s fairy tale. As in so much myth, fairy tale, and folklore, it takes the wolf three tries to get into the house and devour the goats. Perrett mentions being “enchanted by the magical storytelling of films from an early age.” Small wonder, then, that the story in Commune unfolds over three days.
All of this got me so caught up waiting for the film’s climax that I never saw the resolution coming. Not for a second. Obvioulsy I’m not about to discuss that. When I finished Commune, I was already impressed. That was only amplified by finding out it was shot in one weekend and cost £5000.
Some time has passed since I first wrote this, and I remain confident we’ll see more and bigger things from Perrett.
And I can’t wait.