Short Film Review: The Last Confession

Horror has long had a fascination with Nazis. A subset of the video nasties from the 1980s bore titles like SS Experiment Camp and Gestapo’s Last Orgy.

In recent years we have seen films like Dead Snow, Blood Creek, and from this year’s FrightFest : Sky Sharks (Nazi flying sharks) and Skull: The Mask (Nazis experimenting with a magical artefact).

The Last Confession tells the story of a former guard at Birkenau giving a death bed confession—a sin that he gives as much weight as infidelity. This is no Sky Sharks, landing more in the territory of Apt Pupil with a simple storytelling approach that has a theatrical feel.

I could imagine this story working extremely well at the London Horror Festival, ideally in a black box studio, giving more space to the storytelling and drawing the audience slowly in.

And space is what I think The Last Confession needs—this is a dialogue heavy affair and this slightly prevents any sense of tension. There are some lovely, subtle hints at what is to come, but they are placed so close together you put the pieces in place too early.

Stripping back the dialogue I think would have allowed director Dustin Curtis Murphy to create more of a sense of tension and increasing unease, as it moves towards the climactic moments.

It’s a similar story with the music—at times, a little too overpowering when what we want is to be sucked in by the storytelling.

Visually, Murphy plays intelligently with the contrast between light and shadows and the flashbacks to Birkenau are grainy and stylistic—something it would have been great to see more of.

Where The Last Confession really comes into its own is its relevance. For a film that is dealing largely with horrific crimes committed well over fifty years ago, it has a lot to say about today’s world.

The moment where Fr Kramer responds to Paul Bassett Davies’s former concentration camp guard professing a clear conscience regarding his actions in the war with a “Just following orders” felt incredibly relevant.

Even the sight of someone coughing and on oxygen felt unnerving in the light of the current pandemic—which only heightened the connection between the horrors of the concentration camps and the world we’re living in.

This is the strength of The Last Confession and it’s because of this that I would urge people to watch it.

By Ed Hartland

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