Damnationland 2013: Natal
Last time Corey Norman’s work was discussed on Hayley’s Horror Reviews was in relation to his up and coming feature film The Hanover House. Since wrapping up on the film, Corey and his team Bonfire Films had the opportunity to create a 27 minute short titled Natal. Natal is making its premiere on October 18th at the Damnationland horror festival located in Portland, ME. Damnationland supports independent filmmaking by showcasing a number of short films created in Maine, tailored especially for the Halloween season. But that’s not the only connection Maine has to the horror genre. As most die hard fans will be aware its the birth place of iconic horror author Stephen King; and if his spine-chilling novels have taught us anything, its guaranteed something out of the ordinary is bound to take place there.
Corey has requested that Hayley’s Horror Reviews would be one of the first sites to review Natal, prior to its exciting world premiere. Therefore I would like to thank Corey very much for this opportunity which will hopefully generate some interest in the film over in the UK.
Natal is without a doubt the perfect festival piece. As a festival-goer myself, this is definitely the type of film I’d expect to be watching amongst fellow hard core, gore-fiends. It most definitely has a nice indie tone to it, which is mainly down to the ensemble of relatively unknown actors who all gave strong performances, making the material very believable. That said, Natal comes across on a professional level, the film has some impressive cinematography which captures the beauty of the location used and gives a sharper cinematic edge to it. In one of the night time scenes, a lingering shallow focus shot really helped to ramp up the tension. Short filmmaking is a craft that requires a well-structured piece of storytelling conveyed in a short space of time, along with a good balance of pacing. Natal without a doubt achieves this, providing the audience with some intriguing well-rounded characters and an eerie little story thrown into the mix.
Natal focuses on Carissa (Jessica Fratus), following a recent suicide attempt, her boyfriend Tristan (Erik Moody) and friends Jess (Chara Victoria Gannett) and Derek (Andrew Sawyer) bring her to her family’s former cabin for a weekend of rest. But Carissa’s world spirals out of control once again as an unnerving scratching sound consumes her sense of reality, which questions is there more going on with Carissa than she or her friends actually know? So far, the plot comes off as predictable and witnessed many times by horror enthusiasts, even sharing similarities with the recent ‘Evil Dead’ remake, however Natal proves this isn’t the case. The film soon takes a step back from familiar territory and focuses more on characterization rather than bumping everybody off in elaborate ways. What acts as a generic throwback to 80’s style cabin in the woods type films does a complete U-turn through incorporating a blend of styles, there’s elements of the slasher, possession films, body horror and teen drama. Natal does a great deal so the audience can get under Carissa’s skin and empathize with her. Even, Jess, a character who may come across as the stereotypical blonde air-head actually has more layers than it first comes across. The conflict amongst the core group is parallel with the horror metaphor and is accompanied by a contemporary soundtrack that depicts the emotions felt. There is one moment where the soundtrack cleverly makes the entire scene which results in a moment of dark humour. There’s a strong build up of tension throughout resulting in a blood soaked finale that satisfies those who aren’t too squeamish. The use of sound is very effective, therefore it can only be imagined how that uncomfortable scratching will be heard once played on the big screen.
As a short film, Natal is definitely one to watch, Corey Norman has created a tense piece of paranoid horror that stays true to existing tropes found in the genre while also bringing in his own spin on how these types of films can be done through playing it as straight horror rather than being too self-aware of the genre.
Hayley Alice Roberts.