A horror, Empty Nest is surprisingly well put together upon repeat viewings. As is it disappointingly feeble and unconvincing nearing its concluding moments.
In writer-director Joe Craib’s Empty Nest, we meet Alison (Erica Hill), hand in a cast, a sketchbook in her lap, doodling circles. Alison, an artist, is moving back in with her parents, after a rough phase in the big city. Upon return, she finds her house and her parents changed. As though, with the house, they too are undergoing renovation. The atmosphere is built up little bits at a time, leaving scenes sometimes too casual. Credit must be given to the writer for planting clues early on and throughout in a way that makes the revelation more satisfying (besides being obviously disturbing). Alison, upon meeting her childhood friend and crush, Mackenzie (Stephanie Moran), relays the change in her parents and over time, starts living moments from an earlier hallucination. All is not right and things soon start to fall into place– and apart.
Hill makes for a fantastic Alison. Her air and mannerisms place her just right in the balance between rather young to be successful in the big city and rather old to be living with her parents. Risa Cohen offers strong support to the plot as Alison’s mother, especially in the climax.
The death, as it occurs, takes the punch out of the whole thing. Craib missteps here with his writing, not convincing anyone with how it happens.
Another complaint with the writing is that though Alison tells Mackenzie how strange her parents have become, that something is seriously wrong with them, we are afforded no evidence to support the claim. The most we see is them redecorating and smoking joints.
Music (Lora Binder) sets the tone of the film, preparing the audience early on, and plugs gaps in visual tension. By the end of the film, you are as eager as Alison to get out as quickly as possible. Editing makes these last shots claustrophobic.
By no means perfect, there is still a lot to enjoy about Empty Nest. “When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
Watch Empty Nest Short Film
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