Australian horror is home to some creepy little creature features. When the entire country is full of animals that are probably trying to kill you, you’re bound to find some inspiration in nature. And then there’s the fantastic “fear thy neighbor” films that prove just how scary some people can be. In Here There Be Monsters — an Australian horror short — we’re introduced to these top two types of terror; the villains we know, and the creatures we don’t.
After incessant bullying on the bus ride home, a young girl falls asleep and ends up trapped inside the school bus at the empty depot. Her frustration quickly turns to dread when she sees something lurking in the vast dark yard – something big – and Elki’s going to have to summon up every piece of courage she didn’t know she had if she’s going to survive the night.
Here There Be Monsters is free of dialogue, which makes the sound and music so very important. Erin McKimm does an incredible job with such a simple musical theme that’s woven throughout the short. It’s heartbreaking and honest, and communicates volumes of emotion alongside Savannah Foran-McDaniel’s delicate yet powerful performance as Elki.
As you watch the opening sequence — Elki being bullied on a school bus — you want nothing more than to throw your arms around her in a gesture of support and protection. It’s a brief snapshot of Elki’s life, but it’s effective in communicating a deep level of pain. Foran-McDaniel is commanding as the short’s lead and focus, drawing the audience along with her as we feel her fear and frustration.
The short showcases a satisfying practical monster design, which was designed, built, and operated by the team at Steve Boyle FX. The monster’s spine-tingling sound was born from the vocal skills of world famous beat boxer Tom Thum and engineered by sound designer Pete Christie. The result is a real down-to-earth terror that could feasibly crawl right out of the Australian muck (from whence it ostensibly came).
The film has played at 50+ festivals around the world, including Sitges, Hollyshorts, Screamfest and many more genre favorites, winning multiple awards along the way. Writer/director Drew MacDonald describes it as “something of a throwback creature feature mixed with a contemporary story about bullying”. But Here There Be Monsters is not just a cool creature feature, it carries a weight through its theme, focusing on the transference of anger.
There’s a complexity that runs through the short’s approach to bullying, demonstrating the cycles of anger and fear we fall into. MacDonald airs the dirty laundry of the bully’s situation in just a few seconds, offering a balanced and humbling angle to a once abhorrent character. The final moments are impactful, daring the audience to find the monster on screen.
You can watch the full Here There Be Monsters film on YouTube below, courtesy of Alter.