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The Artifice – film review

May 15, 2014


A terrifically taut and creepy bite-sized shocker.

the artifice 2014 - bailey barbour

Written, directed and produced by Matthew Holmes. Starring Joshua Jaeger, Bailey Barbour, Gregory Quinn, Adam Wilson and Nadia Fragnito. Running time: 12 minutes.

Finding himself alone in the house after his partner moves out, a man is paid a surprise visit by a sinister child with jet black eyes; demanding to be let inside.

Creepy kids have long been a popular staple of the horror genre; with 1960’s classic Village Of The Damned and its superior 1963 sequel Children Of The Damned being the best-loved examples of this particular trope. More recent examples abound; including the pleading army of children with teddy bears used to creepy effect in     the 1995 Philip K. Dick adaptation, Screamers. And it becomes quickly apparent     that former VFX artist, turned director, Matthew Holmes has a keen appreciation     for movies of this ilk – as demonstrated with his new short film, The Artifice. Actor Joshua Jaeger (who had previously appeared in Holmes’ non-genre 2007 feature debut, Twin Rivers) gives a nicely understated performance here in the lead as       the beleaguered Lucas. While Bailey Barbour is suitably unsettling as the sinister child – being partly voiced, as he is, by actress Rain Fuller. They say the eyes       are the windows to the soul and Holmes clearly understands there is something universally disturbing when human eyes are altered in some way; to have them     taken away as they are here (with the child having glassy black marbles, instead     of eyes) – suggests a soulessness which is undeniably frisson-inducing.

Holmes also demonstrates a natural flare for sustaining dread; ably supported by Jamie Murgatroyd’s effective score, and the layered sound design by Shaun Smith’s Dream Vault Studios is also instrumental in maintaining a palpable sense of unease. The moody lensing by Holmes’ long-time pal Peter Szilveszter and the razor-sharp editing by Edward Tresize also do much to generate and maintain suspense.

the artifice 2014 - joshua jaeger

I’m gladdened to report that the overall effectiveness of The Artifice bodes extremely well for the director’s much-anticipated period-set creature feature, Territorial, which is currently in development. And considering the great work Holmes has demonstrated here with such limited resources (shooting over a forty-eight hour period, on a budget of AUD $1,200) – it’s exciting to imagine what he’ll accomplish when afforded even greater resources and a substantial budget.

My only minor quibble with The Artifice (upon first viewing, that is) – is that it seemed to demand a much longer running time. And, as it turns out, there is good reason for this – as it is actually part of a much larger work; another feature Holmes is also currently developing with a prominent American writer/producer attached (the short was originally developed as a concept pitch in order to attract overseas interest). In the meantime, Holmes’ next production will be a more ambitious thirty-minute short: The Legend Of Ben Hall; a highly authentic recreation of the last few days of the famed bushranger’s life; culminating in his untimely and violent death. This project is about to be launched via a kickstarter campaign; with the hope of beginning principal photography in early August:

Meanwhile, The Artifice will have its premiere gala public screening at 7:30pm at     the Astor Theatre in Melbourne, Australia, on Tuesday May 20th – after which it is expected to have an official release on-line sometime in the coming weeks.

4 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

From → film reviews

  1. gregory moss permalink

    For a sneak peek at The Artifice … check out the teaser trailer here:


  2. gregory moss permalink

    Just heard The Artifice has been accepted into the FilmQuest Film Festival in the US. Congratulations to Matt and his crew! 🙂


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