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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Lurks Beyond

(Review with spoilers)

For as long as I have known David Morris Kelly, I have had the distinct privilege of watching his eye for storytelling develop, often unfolding complex human emotions or relationships in a matter of minutes. David frequently accomplishes this without words, frequently turning the story towards the unexpected, thoroughly examining the fragile human psyche.

Both installments of David's What Lurks Beyond project portray his talented eye and devotion to the story-at-hand. By utilizing basic, immediately recognizable human relationships -- husband and wife, longterm couple sharing an apartment -- David provides a clear, undistorted foundation onto which he builds the otherworldly. Parallel to the earnest human relationships, even the otherworldly appears to be woven intricately into our everyday experience. A rogue radio/cellular signal transmitter on the roof of an apartment building in the first installment, and the bogeyman in the second.

In the first installment, we are introduced to a bored couple of relative newlyweds, celebrating an anniversary with dinner and drinks that just cannot capture the romance and exotic experiences of years past. The husband, in this case, poisons his wife, but cannot effectively kill her due to that pesky transmitter tower; the radio waves penetrate their bodies, and after a couple of brutal fights, both husband and wife awaken to their reality as strangely undead creatures, certainly doomed for a lifetime shared in their peculiar fate.

In the second installment, an eager and excited boyfriend finds an armoire for his girlfriend, a beautiful antique that she is stunned to see again. She recognizes it from her past, as the home of a bogeyman, and immediately requests that it be returned; he does not believe her and notes that he had to pay the delivery men a handsome tip to get that thing delivered to the apartment. After a night of restless sleep, during which she battles the armoire and eventually is taken by the bogeyman, he discovers the frightening truth that there is such a thing as the bogeyman -- and of course, the bogeyman taunts him with his own disbelief -- "there is no such thing."

Both installments feature their share of tasteful gore and psychological suspense, placing What Lurks Beyond in a clear tradition of horror that is built from within the viewer's mind, playing on the viewer's fears and expectations, rather than preying on the viewer with base violence and extreme gore. Perhaps David's best accomplishment is his portrayal of monstrous human relationships in both installments; on one level, it certainly is the otherworldly that is responsible for the deaths of those involved, but on another level, the otherworldly is penetrated by poor human relationships.

In the first case, the couple's lack of communication and interaction results in a marriage that is void of any real feeling develops from the romantic idealization of years past and innocent love. In the second case, a severe lack of trust and empathy pierces the relationship, and in many ways that first act of disbelief -- "there's no such thing as the bogeyman" -- ensures that the relationship will be over before the bogeyman even gets his say in the matter.

Monsters, in David's intense psychological shorts, are as metaphysical as they are visual; if you are expecting that the otherworldly succeeds in his series, lurking beneath human relationships waiting to wreak havoc, you might be surprised when you find that the monsters are complacent humans going through the motions of their lives and relationships, and what lurks beneath their calm surface is otherworldly mistrust and communication breakdowns.

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