Written and directed by Leslie Simpson
For his first time out as a writer/director, Dog Soldiers and The Reckoning actor Leslie Simpson has hit a home run with his short (15-minute runtime) horror film. Grandpa, a disturbing and, at times, horrifying tale of a family falling apart, is chock-full of little nuggets of metaphor and symbolism that will be the cause of much discussion by viewers. And no one will be completely right or completely wrong in their take on this film.
Milo (Basile); his mother, Audrey (Greenstone); and his dad, Luke (Simpson), are existing in an old house undergoing a major renovation. There are subtle references to another child who died whom young Milo has named his one-eyed stuffed monkey Clyde after, and this upsets his mother according to dear old dad. Milo also wets the bed and tries to hide the evidence from his stressed-out and reaching a dangerous boiling point father. But Milo wetting the bed may be more than just a stage for the young boy, for he has been seeing his deceased grandpa at night, and gramps isn’t happy.
There are also many references to “sight” – Luke unable to look at a portrait of his two children, Claudia not seeing what is making Luke so angry, Milo unable to look away as his grandpa creeps into his room at night, the “invisible” workmen who come and go in the house while the drama within the family increases, the one-eyed monkey Clyde that Milo keeps with him at all times, and what may or may not be going on when Luke tucks Milo in bed.
Several critics have compared this film with works of David Lynch, particularly the “Killer Bob” character from “Twin Peaks.” Talk amongst yourselves about that one (and see what Simpson himself said about it in our interview with the writer/director here). This reviewer didn’t once think of Lynch while watching Grandpa. Instead, I thought this was the beginning of an amazing writing/directing career from an acting horror veteran. Sure, Simpson the actor put on an amazing Jekyll and Hyde performance as Luke, the threat of destructive anger underlying his every move, but Simpson the director makes the most of this 15-minute film with amazing cinematography by Karl Siemon and seamless performances by his actors, particularly 7-year-old Basile.
Grandpa is currently doing the film festival rounds so keep an eye out in case it heads to your town, and look for news from us as to when the film is made available for broader public consumption. Moody, horrifying, frightening, and above all tragic, Simpson’s film is one genre fans should watch for. In the meantime here’s hoping we see a feature from him… and soon!
4 out of 5