Posted on March 11, 2016

Commune: Join Us!

Dawn Keetley

2016   |   UK   | Thomas Perrett   |   17 min

Grade: A-

Summary: Commune works as a short film because it is both complete in itself and exceptionally evocative. The richness of the film—all the things that lurk beyond the boundaries of the literal story—offer, I think, incredible potential for a feature-length follow-up.

The short horror film, Commune, is the brain-child of Thomas Perrett, who conceived the idea for the film, wrote the script, and directed.

Perrett studied Television and Video Production at Bournemouth University and, since graduating in 2001, has been working as a freelance TV and film editor in London. Commune represents the promise he made to himself to get back into filmmaking, and he was clearly inspired as much by place as by anything else—although he does credit some of his favorite childhood horror films, Poltergeist, Evil Dead, and The Shining, as influencing his vision.

Commune really began, though, when Perrett was invited to a Halloween party at a derelict Jewish commune in North London, a house built on Lordship Park in the 1930s. Decaying and abandoned, the house seemed the perfect location for a film—and Perrett had incentive to work fast since the property was slated for redevelopment.

2. Commune, house

After Perrett wrote the script, he got friend Tim Gee on board as director of photography and then found former child actor Tom Weller to play the main character—a man who, like Perrett’s friend, is hired to guard an abandoned house, a former “hippy” commune.

Perrett says that the film was shot in one weekend and cost less than £5000: he edited it himself and relied on the expert work of composer Mike Payne and sound designer Robin Green to turn the ordinary sounds of a man walking around a house into something far more sinister.

Check out the trailer here:

The film is about a man, Tom, hired to be the guardian of an abandoned property—and he is not, it turns out, the first. Not only do strange things start happening, but Tom finds a poster intimating that some kind of cult once inhabited (still inhabits?) the house. A dark figure, glimpsed in the trailer, shows up more than once and starts whispering “Join us” more and more insistently. (Although Perrett didn’t mention this particular film, the figure reminded me of Tony Todd’s brilliant Candyman.)

To find out whether Tom joins—and what it means to join, you’ll have to watch the film.

The poster that Tom finds discarded on a shelf suggests one of the themes of the film—as well as offering an entire mythology that a feature could certainly exploit. The poster promises: “In this godless Sodom we will transcend our mortal bodies,” and it’s the problem of the “mortal body” that the film seems to be about.

3. Commune poster

Tom is a listless and purposeless man. He wanders in and out of the house and, when in the house, spends his time sleeping and eating. He is, as the poster suggests, trapped in his “mortal body” and in a kind of self-centered myopia bounded by that body. When he finds a tramp in his shed, his first impulse is to run him off, though he’s doing no harm there. Then Tom impulsively offers him a beer, repeating that he has to get lost when he’s finished it. In one of the more telling moments of the film, when Tom opens the fridge to get the beer for the tramp, his hand wavers by a more expensive bottled beer, but he ends up grabbing the cheap can. This says much about Tom, who seems lost in every way. He needs saving from the “godless” and selfish world he inhabits. Perhaps that’s why he’s tempted by the call to “join us.”

4. Commune, Tom eating

That Tom’s world is centered on consuming, on feeding a body mired in mortality, is highlighted by a brilliant moment: Tom dreams of another inhabitant who, while wandering around the house, finds a copy of The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, which is all about the wolf’s plotting (of course) to eat the goats. The wolf obviously parallels the sinister dark figure who is trying to lure Tom, to “consume” him. Indeed, Perrett told me that while the book was a random discovery, its “consumption themes fitted neatly with the story of the house effectively consuming our hero.” But I think the book also suggests the way Tom himself, in a much more banal way, is stuck in the realm of consumption, perhaps longing, in ways of which he’s not aware, for some sort of escape or transcendence.

5. Commune, wolf and seven kids

Commune is an incredibly creepy and evocative—and provocative—film. It manages to be suspenseful, frightening, and to say something about our world in less than seventeen minutes. It is expertly written, shot, directed, and edited. And Tom Weller is perfect as Tom. When Commune opens somewhere near you, I strongly recommend you see it.

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