As an abused wife tends to the post-robbery wounds of her criminal ex-husband, they are visited by a mysterious — and malevolent — preacher.
Murder Ballad is a short film written, produced, and directed by Sergio Guerra. Starring a cast of wide-eyed actors who brought Guerra’s ode to crimes of passion to life, Murder Ballad will have its stateside world premiere at Screamfest Horror Film Festival in the historic TCL Chinese Theatre of Los Angeles this upcoming October.
Fun fact, the definition of a murder ballad is a song that tells the tale of a gruesome death. Per director Sergio Guerra, it was the icy cold song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night/In the Pines“, a popular Southern Appalachian murder ballad, that inspired him to write this short. Historically, the song describes a confrontation where a woman is being questioned as to her whereabouts, having been caught doing something she should not have been doing; this narrative forms the backbone of Guerra’s motion picture interpretation of the song, and lyrics from the song, such as “Girl don’t you lie to me”, were even used in dialogue of the film. The short film is presented by Midnight Shiver and stars Hannah Reese, Frantz G. Saint Louis Jr, and Daniel Van Thomas.
Murder Ballad begins with a woman, Lucinda (Hannah Reese) searching her home for an unknown object. Her panic is interrupted by a dark and mysterious man, Ankou (Frantz G. Saint Louis Jr.), a deacon of a well-known parish who oddly makes house calls in the middle of the night. The unwelcome deacon announces that he is a shepherd looking for one of his flock, a sheep named Burgess (Daniel Van Thomas), her husband. Lucinda insists that she hasn’t seen him in years, but the deacon ominously says that Burgess owes him something…and that she owes him something too. As he takes his leave, Lucinda retreats into her home to where Burgess is sitting quietly in the living room, bleeding and clutching the spoils of a robbery gone bad. As her belligerent patient lashes out in pain, striking and berating her as she tries to heal his wound, Lucinda lashes back after one blow too many, causing the unwelcome deacon to return to collect his spoils as well.
This dark horror short certainly had its bright spots. Blood on the floor? Check. Menacing characters? Double-check. A waifish woman who turns badass bruiser after taking one too many hits from an abusive husband? Triple check. Hannah Reese’s performance in having her character do a 180 was magnetic. I believed every sigh, every shiver, and every uncontrollable shake from a heavy weapon in her once innocent hands. As far as Guerra’s directing, the short had an eerie atmosphere to it from dark lighting and lingering sinister interactions between characters; paired with the presence of a Grim Reaper in preacher’s clothing, this slasher film felt like it could rightly be a Tales From The Crypt episode. Great shots and sinister music rounded out the film’s complete package, making Murder Ballad a perfect 10-minute amuse-bouche of Sergio Guerra’s taste for horror.
Sergio Guerra does a lot with a little — his small cast, short runtime, and compact but heavy narrative that captures control, crime, and consequences packed a bloody punch. To catch this suspenseful, occult-ish horror short, click here for tickets, screening on Saturday, October 12, 2019 – 2:00 pm.
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