Retch (2018) Short Film Review


by Jeremy Herbert


If you’ve never sat through a festival block of shorts, you don’t know the toll it takes, especially horror and drama. Your senses and sympathies are battered a dozen different ways in under two hours. That’s no disrespect to the films involved. If anything, the better they are, the tougher the beating — but it’s draining. All those dying relatives. All those closing jump scares. All those somber strings. By the end of it, you’re hungover. And in the thick of it, you’re dying for something different, something to take the edge off.

For most of its run-time, Retch is neither of those things. The intensity redlines from the opening frame as a woman chokes and another searches desperately for life-saving medication. The cinematography makes a nice apartment by any conventional standard look like a dystopian hole in the wall. It’s all shorthand for a very modern style of horror. Start in a panic. Include a woman screaming. End on the special effects budget. And Retch certainly has a special effects budget or at least looks it.

But to give that away — what ultimately makes it a welcome breather — would be criminal. Retch is short enough that the filmmakers clearly know the shell game they’re playing, and writer-director Keir Siewert plays it well. So if you see it coming in a festival block, just let it grab you, fool you, and enjoy the breeze. Horror could use more of it now and again.

Retch is currently on the festival circuit. You can follow Retch’s Facebook page for future screening updates.