US / 26 minutes / color / FauxMeme, Windfall, Akkarai Dir & Pr & Scr: Aditya Narayanan Cine: Ravi Shankar Cast: Nathan Emley, Maria Philip, Jen Floor Matthews (i.e., Jen Floor Mathews), Ben Chadwell, Stevie McKim, Julian Roa, Justin Stanley, Andrew Max, Kumar Gunasekaran, Dinesh Chandrasekhar.
Somewhere in the San Francisco region in July 2015, Susan Wallace (Philip) is aggressively accosted on her way to work one morning by a burly, sinister-seeming stranger, Beth (Mathews). Unwilling to try facing the aggressor down, Susan scuttles away to catch her train.
That evening she encounters Beth again, this time in the company of a man (Chadwell) who it’s plain is Beth’s accomplice in various petty crimes. Susan witnesses the two arguing heatedly over the division of their spoils; as she once again flees in fear, Beth triumphantly tells her, “I know where you live!”
Darkness falls. Susan’s husband John T. Wallace (Emley)—in one instance rendered onscreen as John P. Wallace—is a pathology professor who also consults as a forensic pathologist with the San Francisco PD. He texts her to say he’s going to be home late: there’s another murdered corpse for him to examine.
All well and good, but then Susan glances out through the bedroom window to see Beth sitting in her car outside, gazing upward with a fixed stare straight back at Susan . . .
The opening credits of this movie give the capitalization of its title as nowHere to Hide: I’m not sure if this is just snazzy typography or if we’re supposed to read something into it—“now here” rather than “nowhere”? The credits also list an impressive number of awards the short has received. This list, which I haven’t corroborated elsewhere, runs thus:
- Top Shorts: Best Thriller, 2017
- Hollywood Just 4 Shorts: Finalist, Best Short Film, August 2017
- Best Shorts Competition (eh?): Winner, Award of Recognition
- 6th Kolkata Shorts International Festival (2017): Special Festival Mention
- Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival: Semi-Finalist, 2018
Director Aditya Narayanan also shot a simultaneous (or roughly so) version in Tamil, Ethir Nokku (2017), with Dinesh Chandrasekhar and Jayashree Mani as the two principals and Jen Floor Mathews and Ben Chadwell playing the same roles as in the English-language version.
The big reveal toward the movie’s end—beware, it invokes cadaveric spasm—seems to me more than a little far-fetched, but it’s macabre enough to have a certain fascination; it also explains why we’ve shared with John’s college students a few extracts from his lectures about the mechanisms of muscle contraction, degradation after death, etc. The very last few seconds of the movie are, to be honest, pretty damn’ silly, and are maybe best ignored.
Ravi Shankar’s cinematography is splendid, and full of noirish touches—some of them joyously gratuitous, as when, early on, the framing of Susan as she walks through a pedestrian subway focuses on her feet. Maria Philip’s superbly understated rendition of Susan is the performance that glues the whole thing together, and in the same breath I should mention Jen Floor Mathews’s powerful turn as the genuinely scary Beth. Ben Chadwell is fine in a part that doesn’t demand a huge amount from him, but I confess I was a tad underconvinced by Nathan Emley as John; for some reason he just didn’t quite ring true to me.
Despite the occasional pacing difficulty (for example, we spend far too long with John as he investigates a completely unrelated case, and I think most of us don’t need to have the phenomenon of rigor mortis explained to us quite so, er, rigorously), Nowhere to Hide is well deserving of those accolades and, I’d say, 25 minutes of your time.