A backpack-toting woman trudges through what looks like a sun-baked field of grass, fiddling with a water bottle that’s got just a few drops left in it. Things would only seem mildly dire if she hadn’t also just passed another woman, sprawled in a heap a few feet off the trail, screaming in agony for help — and with a steely look on her face, walked on past. Then we notice the path she’s striding along is marked with gravel and is barely a foot wide, and we can instantly intuit that she isn’t planning to deviate from it, not for any reason.
But why? What’s out there? Who made the path and where does it lead? Just enough information is revealed in Narrow, a short film by writer, director, and lead actor Anna Chazelle. Shared by Short of the Week, it unfolds over 10 unbelievably tense minutes as we follow the protagonist across a landscape where one false step spells unspeakable doom.
After the shrieking woman at the outset, the cruel temptations only ramp up from there — oh, the can of food that the makeshift lasso juuuust won’t reach — and soon build into psychological terrors so awful you can understand why the hiker decides to do what she does. We never get a good luck at whatever’s tracking her every move — or a sense of what it wants, or what sort of apocalyptic event has given it so much power. But as Chazelle tells Short of the Week, that’s kind of the point: “To me, horror clarifies what is truly important in our lives by stripping away the unnecessities. I love stories with simple yet imaginative premises that are approached in grounded, authentic ways. I especially loved the idea of playing with sound — I’m always particularly impressed by films, especially horror, that aren’t afraid of silence.”
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