Welcome back to Barry’s Basement of Oddities, aka Dirty Shorts, or Horror Shorts, or whatever you choose to call our ongoing series of reviews of short horror films. Sometimes, we’ll have a theme, sometimes a stream of thought. What I’m presenting to you is part fun house ride, part classroom, and part getting wasted with your buddies on weekend. This is a horror series, but we’re here to show you the gems. It’ll be scary sometimes, funny, perhaps even thought provoking, but it won’t be boring.
Dining Room or There is Nothing
Directed by David Earle
THE STORY: A zombie woman in a house that is on fire has an existential crisis in the middle of dinner and comes to the conclusion that there is nothing.
THE RUNDOWN: This short film hates you. This short film hates me.
This film always makes someone’s creepy list. A quick internet search will show that a million people before me have reacted or reviewed or offered their two cents (by the by my thoughts are 50 cents) and have been tempted to offer a base emotional reaction as opposed to anything that might be considered scholarly. That being said, it is weird, but why does it stick in so many people’s minds almost a decade beyond its birth?
Dining Room or There is Nothing has a Dario Argento-esque feel to it. The phonograph quality of the sound scape, the creative use of production design, the sweep of the camera, the grainy feel of the footage in conjunction with color timing makes this feel like an experimental film that you might have found coming out of American academia or the European schools in the 1960’s and 70’s. To me, it just feels very Italian and very Dario. Everything about Dining Room or There is Nothing feels like a phantasmic fever dream. The cold stare of a dead woman backlit by the flames of hell is a formidable image. What about the spoon? What about the dining room? Make up an interpretation and you tell me what this is about.
According to director David Earle, DRoTiN* was made to loop back on itself to show that “there is nothing on the ‘other’ side of life.” I think this film tells you everything you need to know. The first half of the run time is played in reverse at its conclusion so that the words of the zombie girl are spoken and deciphered properly the second time. What pearl does she come to us with?
“There is nothing.”
I don’t know if I should be pissed off or if my mind should be blown. Maybe this is some Hamlet level meditation on the nature of hunger and revenge and I’m not being moved emotionally. Or perhaps I am being moved emotionally, but by something so devoid of Christian purity that I don’t even realize how thoroughly it has changed me. And that’s something if not nothing.
WHAT MOVIE SHOULD I WATCH AFTER THIS? Suspiria (1977), Demons (1985), The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964)
*See what I did there?
Writer. Wrestling mark. Dog parent. Halloween enthusiast. Always wondering about the me on Earth 616 and what he/she/it’s up to. Currently residing in Los Angeles.