Robert Eggers‘ 2015 folklore horror film The Witch was acclaimed when it was first released, and Eggers has since become a much talked about name in horror circles. It’s no surprise that The Witch has since seen many imitators, and its effect can be seen in A Tale Best Forgotten, a Swedish short film currently playing online at SXSW.
While not set in 1630s England, Tomas Stark‘s film – described as a “murder ballad” and based on a poem by Helen Adam – echoes Eggers’ frequently. The eerie, slowburn pacing, the grainy film look, and a clear focus on atmosphere above typical horror beats such as jump scares.
Of course, it’s tricky to judge a feature length film to a short. Eggers had a full story to tell, while Stark’s film feels like an ambiguous opening to a longer narrative. In a film this short and this focused on atmosphere, there’s no real need to establish characters, so A Tale Best Forgotten revolves solely around its creepy atmosphere.
It’s effective, and would work as the aforementioned opening to a longer film, but on its own the short feels more like an experiment in atmosphere and clever camerawork. It’s a little like a showcase reel for the director, highlighting his talents for a better gig, rather than a complete work. Without the intrigue of what’s to come, it feels a little hollow.
Adam’s poem is spoken by the poet herself throughout, and the film does a good job matching its avant-garde style and creepy imagery to her words. The film evokes the feeling of a spooky campfire story come to life, which is a credit to Ashley Briggs‘ cinematography and the visual effects by Johan Hansson.
Despite its brief runtime, it’s easy to be left both slightly impressed by the subtle macabre of A Tale Best Forgotten, but also slightly disappointed that there’s not more of it. That’s to the slight detriment of the film itself, but a credit to the creative talent behind the camera.
The film stars Julia Sporre, Adam Stålhammar, Ola Wallinder, and Jerker Beckman and is playing online at SXSW here until Wednesday, March 31.