Gary, a 9-minute horror directed by Michael Rognlie (co-written with John Lee), follows in the tradition of smart devices gone rogue, with the added element of lockdown neuroticism. It is safe to presume that in the years to come this will become its own subgenre. Here, the protagonist and soon to be victim is Mark, who has just moved into a house that comes with Gary, a smart system that manages the whole house.
Things descend into chaos early into the film, and though Mark (played by Rognlie) is not made to be particularly likeable, it is not hard to sympathise with him almost as soon as Gary is introduced, a pushy and intrusive presence which also becomes inescapable as the narrative progresses. There is a certain uneventfulness about that descent into chaos which suggests a triviality to it, as though this has happened before (and often).
Mark’s situation with Gary escalates in dramatic increments, also carrying an element of humour with them. Gary begins by intruding on smaller tasks, irritating but not yet unsettling. The latter happens in full force once it starts locking Mark in and taking complete control of both the house and Mark’s life. The film uses its visuals somewhat atypically, whether with frontally staged actors or with a camera that is sometimes too close to their faces, creating an overall sense of subliminal disquietude. Things appear to be just slightly off.
Hints of a cult manifest in campy fashion, which strikes a curious balance between taking the seriousness out of it and making it all the more chilling. Men and women in bathrobes and poorly applied clown makeup worship their god. Mark begins to have nightmares. A mysterious woman who disappears as abruptly and without explanation as she appears seems to haunt him. The nature of her existence is left ambiguous, even as she quickly becomes a presence in Mark’s nightmares.
The climax is clipped off in the film’s typical abrupt fashion. Loose ends are tied up. The film functions on the assumption that the audience is already open to the idea of a smart home system being sentient, and offers no explanation on that front. And Gary becomes scarier for that implied history.
Watch Gary Short Film Trailer
Gary: The Smart Home From Hell