His name is Dario, her name is Maria, but neither of them have used their real names for their online presence; he introduces himself sincerely while she continues to evade. Their meeting is awkward, he arriving at her suburban house on a quiet night, the gentleman caller trying to make a good impression with a timidity which belies the key boast of his profile.
She only communicating in Spanish which he does not understand, it puts her in the position of power as he enters her space, her eyes heavily shaded with just a hint of soft glitter, apparently at ease and assured, but Maria is not in control of the anything, simply obeying instruction.
There is a third party in the house, Maria’s unseen mistress, Evelyn Castavet, demanding and insistent, keeping to the shadows and communicating via text message, a woman of particular habits and a taste for foreign food whom Maria is beholden to.
A short film written and directed by The Black Tape‘s Ramone Menon, Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House is a stylistic departure, maintaining his strong approach to character and performance but building a more atmospheric setting despite the limitations of the single location, the modern dwelling atypically lit by flickering candlelight which in other circumstances might be romantic.
Presented as a supernatural mystery and structured as the acts of a play, Menon makes it clear that Maria (Daniella Mendoza) is as much a victim of circumstance as Dario (Marvin J Edmonds) and those before him; an illegal immigrant in the employ of Bartholomew Castavet (C J Baker) who uses her vulnerable position to exploit her and free himself of the burden of his obligations.
The brief running time allowing little development beyond the premise, Menon manages to express his intentions and his characters clearly, and Ms Castavet (Anna Chavez) is deliciously creepy in her games of hide and seek which create a permeating sense of unease and one very effective jump scare.
Once Upon a Time in a Haunted House is currently playing the festival circuit