Cottonmouth (2020) was a hair-raising kind of eerie, a short film that was slowly built over a series of deceptively mellow scenes that culminated in an ending that had me holding my breath in fear and in awe of its well-done direction. Produced and directed by Zach Wincik and Danny Salemme, Cottonmouth stars horror idol Heather Langenkamp of Nightmare on Elm Street fame.
In the film, a woman sleeps, awaking to find that her glass of water seems to be less full. Placing tape at the waterline, the woman returns to sleep, setting a timer to check later. After awaking a second and a third time to the same, she awakens a fourth time to find prints on the glass. After setting up a camera, she is horrified to see that someone — or something — has been sneaking into her room.
Writer Danny Salemme cleverly wrote Cottonmouth in a way that casts doubt on the protagonist, making me feel like she was unreliable and crazy for the majority of the film. Set in one small bedroom with one endearing actress and not a single spoken line, Cottonmouth somehow impresses with very little, its simplicity in elements belying its depth in character building and plot. I also enjoyed the introduction of the creature, whose entrance is just as gradual as the steady build of horror over the course of the movie, and when finally unveiled, reveals an interesting and uniquely styled monster.
In under 4 minutes, Cottonmouth tricks, treats, and minutely scares, performed by a veteran and written and directed by relative novices. It was impressive and enjoyable — a small slice of psychological-paranoia horror that turned out to be a pleasantly surprising creature feature.
7.5 out of 10