It’s a daunting step for Katy, the move to her childhood home and all the memories it holds, far from her comfort zone in California and the support of her therapist who has been helping her manage her obsessive-compulsive disorder, her fear of fire that has her rising multiple times every night to check the smoke alarm.

Surrounded by the inherited accoutrements of her family, the sofas inhabited by dolls and the walls adorned with crosses, rest does not come easy, the alarm waking her at precisely two o’clock every morning for no apparent reason, Katy seeing things in the shadows which her brother jokingly suggests is the return of her imaginary childhood friend, Esther.

Esther the short film which launches genre production company Red Tower, it is directed by 3 Demons’ D M Cunningham from a script co-written with Brian Levin, starring The Spore’s Haley Heslip as both Katy, isolated but coping with her issues through her sense of humour, and the manifestation of her nocturnal alter ego Esther.

Simultaneously needing the reassurance of the smoke alarm and yet with her sleep constantly interrupted by its persistent beep, why does she wander the house by the light of her phone, knocking into objects and stumbling, glimpsing shapes in the shapes, rather than simply turning the light on? Because she’s in a horror film, of course.

The constant voicemails to her therapist a contrivance to make Katy’s inner monologue and the exposition it carries external without the burden of actual conversation, the only voice heard other than Katy her brother, her superficial confessions are accompanied by the requisite sad piano but little depth is explored, with no connection developed between the present and the past which caused Katy’s fears or explanation of the significance of the precise time which haunts her.

Recalling the original short which was expanded to become Lights Out but achieving less despite running three times as long, Esther ends abruptly just as it finally gets going, most of the ten minutes wasted on banal inconsequentialities rather than making the character engaging or the situation atmospheric, feeling more like a premise awaiting development than a finished piece.

Esther is streaming now



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