We’ve reviewed several of Alexander Henderson’s shorts in the past, most recently Trap. We’ve also reviewed several episodes of his web series Safer-At-Home and his feature Sacren. The guy sure stays busy, and now he’s collected thirteen of those shorts together for an anthology, The Red Nightmare.
Right from the start, many of the segments are variations on a similar theme. Ghosts and evil spirits stalking nice modern apartments rather than old dark houses. The opening segment, “Momo” (not to be confused with Momo: The Missouri Monster), is based on the internet hoax from a couple of years ago. Lola (Nicoletta Hanssen, Flesh and Blood a Go! Go!) and Donnie (Wade Baker, Division 19, Airliner Sky Battle) wake up to find the titular creature (Aza Sharavnyam) in their apartment. Nicoletta Hanssen will turn up later in a similar segment “Shedim” where she has to deal with one of the shadow people.
“The Smiling Woman” is a slight reversal of the theme by having a man be the recipient of the creature’s attention. An artist, Steven (Reid Schmidt, Ugly Sweater Party), is terrorized by someone out of his past (DJ Dallenbach) who takes on the form of his most recent drawing. While still effective, at fifteen minutes this one feels a little long, coming after after two similar segments. Also, if I got a call from someone referring to themselves as “The mother of your abortion” I doubt my response would be “I’ll leave the door unlocked.”
And this is the main problem I had with The Red Nightmare. The segments are, in and of themselves mostly quite good. There’s enough variation between the ones with similar themes to make them enjoyable to watch individually. But seeing them back to back they begin to feel repetitive. They should have been scattered through the collection instead.
It also makes the segments where Henderson steps away from that formula stand out more. For example “Chrissy” in which a model (Marine Madesclaire) has to deal with a distinctly creepy photographer (Reid Schmidt). The supernatural twist is the least disturbing thing about this short.
Also of note is “Mystery Box” in which a woman (Rosa Pérez) receives a package containing what looks like a snuff film. It’s quite short, but with a final twist I didn’t foresee.
“Airbnb” ends The Red Nightmare with a tale of all to human evil. Dan Garland (A Dark Foe) gives a nice Anthony Perkins style performance as Gregory. But I couldn’t figure out why rather than simply hide. Jacob (Evan Benham, The Grotesque World of Jimmy the Bean) didn’t grab something to fight back with.
Taken individually, the shorts range from excellent to, at the worst, watchable. There’s no doubt Henderson can direct a good short film. My issues with The Red Nightmare are the way the collection is presented. There’s no wraparound segment so the segments just follow each other with a title card between them. Some have credits at the start some don’t, which makes the collection feel even more disjointed. There are full credits for all the films at the end of The Red Nightmare.
Also bear in mind that the segments, while not exactly family friendly, are YouTube safe. Those looking for more graphic fare will be disappointed.
The Red Nightmare is free to watch on the director’s YouTube channel, as are several of the shorts individually as well as some other shorts not in the collection. I’m giving the film three stars though the shorts would probably have gotten four with a better framework.