Charlie Schwan’s VACANT is a horror short about something everyone can relate to. This relatability makes it impossible for this film to not impact you after seeing it. The mark of a great short is completing the story while making the viewer wish it doesn’t have to end. VACANT achieves this effortlessly while making those who have the pleasure of seeing it demand more. Everything is answered but there are so many more questions that are intriguing and deserve to play out in a full-length feature.
The short begins with a woman (played perfectly intricately by Emmie Ray) home alone, settling in for a night of relaxation, with a bottle of wine and some popcorn. She hears a noise that we’ve all heard, the sounds of our home “settling.” A noise that we’ve been so desensitized to at this point, 9 times out of 10 we think nothing of it. It is easy to just dismiss those things to keep our minds from wandering down a path of fright, which ultimately leads to trying to find somewhere else to stay permanently. VACANT’s pacing is superb as you go from slightly startled to fully invested in trying to telepathically convince the lead to get the hell out of there.
Emmie Ray makes us feel everything she does without saying a word. The moments of curiosity, doubt, and fear are written all over her face as she investigates the things that go bump in the night. She does it fearlessly to the point that there are more than a few times you’ll feel frightened. Where she probes further down a path that can’t lead to anything good. The music helps to make the hairs stand up on your arms and the back of your neck. No cheap, loud builds that signal predictable jump scares. The moments arrive on time but are unpredictable, which makes the impact greater, even for people who have seen it all in horror.
Writer and director Charlie Schwan has made something that stays with you in the back of your mind long after the runtime. It’s a daily part of life we ignore. Rightfully so. The exploration into these what-ifs is what shines the brightest in VACANT. Thankfully, it’s just a film and is, in no way, real. At least that’s what is assuredly going to repeat in your mind every time you think you hear a creak or dismiss some rattling as just a little wind. Of course, it is but, after experiencing VACANT, maybe not.
You can catch Charlie Schwan’s VACANT exclusively on HorrOrigins.