Boo (2019) Short Film Review
by Jeremy Herbert
The earliest definition of the word “boo” comes from 17th century author Gilbert Crokatt, who deemed it “a word that’s used in the north of Scotland to frighten crying children.” Does Boo use it as God and Gilbert Crokatt intended? No, not really. Is it about ghosts? Also no, not really. It’s said once, the last line, as a blackly comic punchline to a short that otherwise goes mostly for the jugular. Where Boo earns its name is in that invisible surprise, the change in the winds you don’t notice until it’s staring you square in the face. And that’s a change on both sides of the camera.
Odds are writer-star Rakefet Abergel’s last short, Jax In Love, played within twenty miles of wherever you’re reading this and probably won an award there, too. Most of the gilded hardware was reserved for her tightrope performance as the kind of hitchhiker-cum-killer who’s vulnerable, but not stereotypically so. Sensitive, but the way landmines are. She brings this same welcome texture to Boo, her directorial debut. The difference comes with the perspective; more than half of the Boo crew are women. The short pushes the same big, heavy buttons that too many male filmmakers punch with self-righteous abandon, knowing they’ll get a reaction no matter how clumsily depicted. Boo handles two - addiction and sexual assault - with a refreshing amount of restraint.
Not to say that it’s a stone-faced lecture on either of them. After an appropriately grabbing opener that sees recovering addict Devi (Abergel) bang at her fiancé’s (Josh Kelly) car window covered in blood, Boo rewinds to a very human conversation about drinking and relationships. Grace (Laura Wiggins) can barely stand the constant temptation of big city life. Ava (Parisa Fitz-Henley) hasn’t told her partner yet because she already ruined one marriage that way. Devi might have a seven-years-sober chip, but that doesn’t make her boyfriend seeing her weakness any less worrying. It’s quiet and funny in a way too much horror doesn’t allow itself to be. Not to mention relatable. Even if you’ve never struggled with the kind of addictions that win Oscars, you’ve chewed enough fingernails over that special someone finding out how deep your cracks might run.
You’re only as sick as your secrets. As the tagline dares, Boo is best seen blind. The darker surprises deserve the right to shock, jolt, and impress an unsuspecting audience. First-time director or otherwise, Abergel impressively observes the proceedings with a shaky eye through the bottom of a shot glass. Her camera teeters without tipping over, like someone trying desperately to stand up straight and walk a blurry line. Night is a bruised shade of vice and everyone feels the pain in close-up.
Jax in Love more than proved her acting and writing bonafides. Boo does it all again and one better - Rakefet Abergel is an actor, writer, and director to watch out for. Luckily, it’ll probably play somewhere within twenty miles of wherever you’re reading this. Probably win some awards, too.