Confusion and misdirection are as sharp an instrument in the horror director’s tool bag as any other, more dizzying and memorable than another severed limb or gory-gutting by an enraged serial killer.
The ability to make us doubt the world presented to us, to be as lost in the moment as our protagonist on screen can be a lot more striking and will stay with us for longer.
All of which brings us to House of Lexi, a British indie-horror short written and directed by M. W. Daniels.
House of Lexi is the story of a young woman stricken with grief and sorrow for reasons initially hidden from the viewer.
It’s the story about the bond of sisterhood and the effects grief can have on us. We find Lexi living with her younger sister Haley as she struggles with a mysterious loss, with anguish and pain never flitting far from the screen.
To say much more than this would be a disservice to the plot as a whole; suffice to say that House of Lexi is a film to be experienced as much as it is to be watched.
Emma Dark (Salient Minus Ten) as Lexi is the standout in a cast of uneven performances. Dark will be familiar to fans of the British horror scene as a writer, director and actor to be watched, and she makes the most of the material she is given here with a fleshed out and intelligent portrayal.
The time spent in Lexi’s presence is well played, and we experience her rising fear and confusion through Dark’s talented portrayal. The performances around her are somewhat stilted but largely competent; the next-door-neighbour-cum-doctor being the only performance that pulls you out of the piece at a vital moment.
Much of what you take from the film will depend entirely on what you put in; the plot, such as it is, obfuscates the story and presents no easy answers. The lack of coherence is an interesting creative choice by M.W Daniels and it succeeds in aligning us with Lexi’s viewpoint.
A final act exposition dump that clarifies some of the story’s plot points feels like an artistic misstep that had been inserted for lucidity.
The cinematography of the short is genuinely stunning and the director makes the most of a limited budget. The opening vista as we scan along a deserted beach to find a haunting, solitary figure, is truly stunning and would not feel out of place on a work of a larger scale.
Also, the beautiful autumnal season is captured in all of its vibrancy; there is one particular shot of Lexi walking home that feels very reminiscent of Carpenter’s Halloween; the falling leaves and suburban setting making the impending sense of doom feel very close to home.
The music in House of Lexi is a triumph. An ominous and foreboding score that adds to the morose mood of the piece. Director M. W. Daniels is also the composer of the score, adding another string to his bow and providing a musical accompaniment that heightens the strange goings on around Lexi.
Lexi’s increasing mental instability is portrayed in a showstopping sequence just over halfway through, with a psychedelic-trip that may have you wondering if someone has spiked your drink. The disorientating bathroom scene is a standout in a short that is confidently and beautifully directed.
While House of Lexi is a work with moments of sparkling creativity and a brilliant central performance, it will leave some viewers unsatisfied with its reluctance to conform to usual storytelling tropes.
House of Lexi is a film that will divide opinion and no doubt engender spirited debate about its meaning and its merit. I would suggest that you travel with Lexi and make your own mind up about what you are seeing within those walls…
By Hugh McStay
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