Short: Avant Macabre

Directed by: John Shelton
Written by:John Shelton
Cast: John H. Shelton, Steven Chamberlain, 


This five minute short teams poems with atmospheric imagery, focusing on the horror of the message, and the emotions they elicit from the film maker.
It’s a very nice idea, and something rarely done these days, but I’m not sure what the film was actually trying to say. Whilst there were some lovely shots, particularly the ones using negative effects, I feel that the imagery wasn’t really relevant to what I was listening to. If I were to watch it as a short without the overlay of the poems, I think I’d enjoy it a lot more, but I do like the idea of it. The woodland scenes, shot entirely in black and white, look fantastic and there is a gothic theme running throughout that pays great homage to such classics as Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The villain in the first poem did give off a very Babadook / Papa Lazarous vibe, which I enjoyed.
The film makers have gotten some great footage with what seems like a small budget and props to them for that. Whilst it’s not a perfect short, I think there’s potential, and while people are out there making independent film, it’s a great thing.


I must admit, as much as I’ve often bitched and moaned about films having lazy script writing and people breaking their own logic just to progress a story, I have a bit of a soft spot for experimental cinema. Thats not to say there isn’t rubbish out there or many films features outstay their welcome. It’s probably why I quite enjoy experimental shorts over features.

Avant Macabre is a new short by John Shelton and interestingly highlights that the visuals (for the most part) are its driving force by coming in two versions – with a poetry reading or as a ‘silent film’ (with just the score).
We are covering the poetry version, which it must be said does add something to the mix. The visuals in the first section are following a linear line and highlight how much they drive the storyline behind Emma Darks’ reading. After around 3 minutes the visuals become more experimental and ‘trippy’ and the poem becomes more of the shorts driving force (I also preferred these verses to the first).

Then there is the bad, unlike a few of low-budget shorts recently where the technical quality has finally caught up, the video quality isn’t fantastic, and feels almost like it was shot on tape. There has also been a heavy hand in adding effects during post to the project – a little more restraint probably would have helped, especially in later scenes. Some of the images contained within some of the ‘cleaner’ shots within the piece images look great, especially in the hallway.

While Avant Macabre isn’t a bad short at all – it is let down in a number of areas, but in others also shows some promise. Off the back of this I would wager Avant Macabre 2.0 will be an interesting watch.







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