Written and directed by Francis Han, 503 is an excellent example of creative writing. That the horror genre has been over exposed for a while now is well known. So, it would, understandably, take a lot more to stand out in the category. Thankfully for Han, his 503 does that and a lot more.
A stubborn and evidently unkind landlord increases his rent when it’s clear that the tenant is struggling to make ends meet. Sounds familiar? But, what Han does with this common plotline is delve into the depravity of the mind of that landlord. He doesn’t leave much for the imagination. We are shown Sam’s (Patrick Burkard) taste for the excesses. He is cunning, uncaring and indifferent. Burkard gets the maximum screen time and the thoughtfully taken close-ups leave him with enough room to flex his acting muscles.
When despite Mary’s (Numa Khandwani) earnest pleas, Sam refuses to budge, he sets the dice rolling. What interestingly stands out about 503 is its colour palette. The hues are soft, warm-toned, leaving a wholesome impression, despite the storyline and the genre. This works to its advantage as it simply absorbs the audience in for a voyeuristic experience. Through cinematographer Hannsue’s lensing that opts for dutch angles, close-ups amongst others, 503 becomes an engaging film to watch.
When Sam nicks a video game DVD from an old-wheelchair-bound seller (George Ross Bridgman), little does he know how the game is going to crucify him for his sins. However, as an audience we are given enough hints to know what might be the beginning of an impending doom. Which is why Burkard’s acting and the subsequent plotline is important, to keep the audience tuned in.
Erik Rau (production designer) deserves laurels for setting the ambiance right. Had it not been for the care taken to bring the apartment to life, the horror it entails wouldn’t have had a similar effect. It’s again important to note here that Han and Manav Komal’s editing, additionally sets the pace for 503. When Sam discovers that the video game isn’t your regular-innocent-mind-numbing game, he is at his wits end. His entrapment into the game, the blurring of reality with fantasy/horror with Matthew Story’s music, all make the film a thrilling experience.
Han repeats the jump scares, but they’re effective because of the minimalistic approach taken towards the horror-creating entity. Perhaps overlooked, but a well-deserved mention would be of Sabrina Lee, whose computer animation adds the much important dimension to an otherwise linear narration.
503 is a story of comeuppance, above all else. It’s amazing how poetic justice can be delivered in 15:52-minutes. Highly recommended!
Watch 503 Short Film
503: A Horror That You Might Wish Upon Some