Middle-Schooler’s Horror Short ‘The Guest’ Will Have You Switching Off Your Laptop

Directors these days are getting younger and younger. None more so than the talented Nico Cardenas-Mille – a middle school kid whose short was recently chosen to be shown at Times Square’s AMC Theatre as part of a film festival.

Being English, Middle School doesn’t mean a whole lot to me, but I’ll take an educated guess that it’s pretty young. Especially judging from the making of videos on Nico’s YouTube channel. But you didn’t come here to debate international differences in schooling, so let’s take a look at the film.

‘The Guest’, not to be confused with Adam Wingard’s outstanding thriller of the same name, features an unknown threat that initially spreads through computers.

Once an individual’s infected, however, it can be passed on like your standard zombie virus. You know, biting, scratching, blood, guts and cuts.

The victims in this case are two young kids left home alone by their mum. And while the threat obviously has zombification at the heart of it, it’s a great metaphor for the fear many parents have that there’s something innately dangerous about the relationship between computers and their children.

As Nico commented in Centre Daily, where I initially picked up on this film, “‘The Guest’ is based largely around Nico’s dearly held belief that there’s nothing more terrifying than when the familiar turns against you.’

It’s all very well having a good story, but what about the execution. Surely someone still in school wouldn’t be equipped with the tools or experience to carry out an effective horror short. Totally wrong.

Obviously no one’s going to win an oscar for this. The actors seem to largely be his friends or family. Even so, they do the job well enough.

As for the editing, framing and photography, it’s all surprisingly well done. The first shot alone features some effective silhouetting.

The few effects used – bleeding eyes, anyone? – are minimal and realistic considering what’s got to be a nil budget.

One of the most effective elements throughout was the soundtrack, which maintained an atmosphere of unease. That is, until a stabbing two-note rhythm kicks in that eventually becomes a little jarring.

The Future of Horror is Bright

I initially switched on this short without any expectations, but after watching it a couple of times, it’s quite exciting to think of the work he might be capable of making and demonstrates there’s plenty of hope for the future of horror directors.

Compared to the film I made at A level (which is probably several years ahead of Middle School), it’s a goddamn masterpiece. But then that’s why I’m sitting here writing about films, not making them.

Stop reading and watch ‘The Guest’ below.

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