As her parents bitterly argue over how to care for her ageing grandmother, a young girl - played by Priah Ferguson, a.k.a. Lucas' sassy little sister on Stranger Things 2 - drifts deeper into her dreamworld, and her increasing fears that aliens will soon bring about the end of the world.
David Tabor's Ends - a proof-of-concept short made ahead of a planned feature - feels almost like an experimental film, and even without any shots of UFOs in the sky or little green men on the ground, it's got a definite sense of unease creeping around the edge of every frame. The narrative beyond the angry parents is vague and mysterious, but that's a deliberate choice made by the filmmaker.
"The short is very tonal," Tabor tells io9. "It's supposed to be a visual poem of mood with this ominous force colouring these relatively ordinary scenes of familial dispute. Least said and shown felt like the best way to handle the aliens for this approach."
Ends is just an impressionistic first glimpse of what Tabor intends to make into a feature film; it met its Kickstarter goal a few months back. At this stage of the project, he was careful to scale down his idea so that it would feel appropriate for a much shorter running time. "The short actually came out of the reduction of a much larger idea that I had been mulling over for years. Through my cinematographer, Samuel Laubscher, the opportunity arose to apply this larger concept to a much shorter and very limited project," Tabor says. "I essentially took the bare bones of the plot and played them out like fragments of memory as if recalled by an unseen party. The short is a few snapshots taken by a child of this event while the feature is the whole family photo book. So, all that being said, expanding it back into a full concept wasn't so difficult; however, framing it to play like a detective thriller film was."
Though no aliens actually appear in the short, the feature version of Ends will lean more heavily into the story's science fiction elements. "In the feature we are aiming for a similar effect by very different means," Tabor says. "The science fiction elements take on a much more physical role in the story, while their intent and actual presence becomes a piece of a huge overwhelming puzzle that this young girl is forced to investigate and decipher on her own."
Speaking of that young girl, the actress in the short will be very familiar to fans of Stranger Things 2. It's a completely different type of character than Erica Sinclair — here, she's fearful, curious, watchful, and very quiet, though just as expressive as you'd expect. Of course, Tabor had no way of knowing Ferguson would become an overnight sensation when he cast her.
"I had spent about a month on casting the role of Charlie for the short film when Priah's name finally popped up," he recalls. "Her audition completely blew me away. Her depth and control as an actor was just very apparent; so much so that I actually pushed our entire production back a month to fit it with her schedule — the scheduling conflict, I later learned, was Stranger Things. It didn't surprise that she became an immediate fan favourite. Working with her on the short was an absolute pleasure. She's charming, talented, and was entirely in touch with the character we were working on putting on screen."