Willa, a short film based on a Stephen King story by the same name, is preparing to make its way onto the festival circuit, and it’s a chilling, romantic ghost story, you definitely need to see.
Originally published in Playboy in 2006, Willa was later included in King’s Just After Sunset collection. In the story, a young man and his friends are stuck in a train station waiting on a train to take them home. The man can’t find his fiance, Willa, and so he sets out to look for her, only to discover that everyone at the station including himself and his fiance all died in a train crash decades before.
Mayne’s adaptation moves the action to the moment where everything went wrong, changing a few elements to create a haunting ghost story that is both beautiful to look at and heartbreaking to experience.
“I love the classic ghost-story feel of it paired with an emotional component that you don’t see very often in horror,” Mayne told iHorror. “It was a story that focused on character and relationships, and the horror comes from a more existential fear of random chaos in the world that can happen to any of us at any time that’s beyond our control. It was believable to me that something really terrible and sudden could happen to this train full of people without them ever even realizing.”
In the film, Kelsi Mayne (Sin City ER) stars as Willa opposite Adrian Jaworski (The Cult) as David. The couple, along with two friends/bandmates Tiffany (Madison Seguin) and Henry (Nick Szeman), are headed to their first televised gig. As they celebrate on the train, an ring box falls out of David’s bag and a shocked Willa excuses herself to go to the bathroom.
The mood suddenly changes throughout the entire train car. For some reason, they are not moving and while the service attendant tries to keep everyone calm, there is a foreboding feeling that something is not quite right.
Mayne and his co-screenwriter Barbara Szeman give the story just the right amount of details, coating the entire production with a layer of suspense just thick enough to keep the audience guessing what might happen next.
It also doesn’t hurt that Mayne is a VFX artist as well as a director. He, along with Greg Zdunek and Michael Innanen, use just the right amount of practical and digital effects to make the world believable without becoming heavy-handed in the process.
This is especially well-done in the contrast between the vibrant, sun-filled train car as the band celebrates their upcoming gig and the shadowy, foggy night filled with shadowy creatures that David steps out into when looking for Willa.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the film’s score, as well. Composer Ho Ling Tang created a musical soundscape that is rich, romantic, with a couple of pointed edges that lends itself well to the storytelling of Willa without ever becoming obtrusive.
Even if you’ve read the story, you don’t know the ending to Willa.
Mayne and his crew are currently waiting for responses from festivals. To keep up with all the latest news you can visit their official website, and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @WillaMovie!
Check out the trailer below and look for Willa at a festival near you!