Stephen King has remarked that a novel is an affair, but a short story is a quick kiss in the dark. I have always felt that remark also is useful in terms of thinking about the difference between short films and feature-length ones. Short subjects offer little time to develop deep characters about which the viewer cares or intricate plots into which the viewer falls. They also often lack the budget for special effects or the ability to visually stun the viewer. So as a quick kiss in the dark, one is left to think either it was a good kiss or not so much, please don’t do that again. See See TV is perhaps an exemplar of the form.
It opens with a quotation from George Orwell’s 1984–a bit of pretentiousness, but okay (Let’s remember, Orwell’s concern was governmental, not corporate, malfeasance. Surely there are better quotations about giving up one’s security and privacy than evoking “Big Brother” who is now, to most, a television program, and not a metaphor for a controlling authority…Sigh). The quote cuts to a shot of a camera hung from a second floor, looking down on a driveway, suggesting we are about to see a found footage film. Instead, what follows is a narrative film that also uses security camera footage to draw us in.
Our protagonist, simply named “Watcher” (Chris Miller, who also co-wrote and produced) is having a camera security system installed in his flat. The installer (Jack Fox) shows him how it works through his cellphone and computer, allowing him constant access to check the cameras, and then tells of how one of his colleagues gave himself access to his neighbors’ feed and was fired. We also learn Watcher has a crush on his neighbor, Ellie (Christie Russell-Brown).
When he logs onto his security account, Watcher discovers a link called “Ellie” and finds he has access to video feed of her bedroom. This is one of those moments in which the short film can get away with what is seemingly a plot hole. Even if he has access to her security system, why would she have a camera in her bedroom pointing at her bed instead of a window or door? The answer may be because she is unaware there is a camera there, and it has been put there for nefarious purposes.
Watcher becomes obsessed with watching Ellie, holding his phone even while using the bathroom. He watches her change, he watches her sleep, and he watches a man break into her bedroom and murder her. The final moments of See See TV are predictable and yet still disturbing. Between the Orwell quote and the film’s own marketing it seems the filmmakers insist the film is a serious consideration of “the consequences of voyeurism and surveillance,” and while the performances and cinematography are both solid, that seems a bit grandiose for an eleven-minute short.
See See TV is an interesting film, perhaps not as serious as it claims, but still well made. The fact that the title is a pun on CCTV (closed circuit television) is the height to which we rise here, and that’s okay. After all, it’s a quick kiss in the dark, and not at all a bad one.
7 out of 10