Starring Laura Bayston, Andrew Greaves, Joe Sims, Carrie Cohen, Robert Portal
Directed by Samuel Dawe and Paul Holbrook
Hungry Joe is a film about a boy who can’t stop eating. That may sound like an oversimplification, but it’s actually a pretty accurate and thorough description of one of the most disturbing short films you’re likely to see in a long time. There may not be a whole lot of plot stretched across the twenty-two minute runtime, but directors Samuel Dawe and Paul Holbrook managed to create something truly memorable out of an incredibly simple concept.
Laura Bayston plays Laura Gilligan, a formerly happy mother to be who gives birth to a son who eats, and eats, and eats. The doctors do not take her concerns about Joe’s endless eating seriously at first, but it soon becomes clear that he will never stop devouring anything placed in front of him. The other boys in the neighbourhood view him as a freak and place a dead fish through his letterbox, while Laura begins to wonder of she needs to take more drastic measures to stop her son from devouring everything in sight
Filtered with a cold and grey colour scheme, Hungry Joe is certainly not a visually inviting film, and Bayston’s devoted performance as a woman slowly losing her sanity over her son’s endless eating only adds to the overall feeling of growing anxiety which the filmmakers were able to convey so well. Andrew Greaves also deserves praise for his performance as Joe, because while he has very little dialogue, he still managed to express both helplessness and malice, making the audience unclear if they should hate Joe or feel sympathy for him.
It also becomes clear throughout the course of Hungry Joe that the filmmakers wanted to make the audience feel as grossed out as possible, with everything from close-up shots of Joe’s endlessly chewing mouth to his maggot-infested leg would from a pellet gun being presented in great detail. Needless to say, you shouldn’t watch this while you’re eating.
It won’t make you laugh and it’s not exactly a relaxing watch, but Hungry Joe is still one heck of a social realist horror story with a few implied elements of the supernatural sprinkled in. Don’t expect something fun and lighthearted, because this is a short film which refuses to shy away from the ugliness of real life. This film could even be used as a health PSA, because after watching Hungry Joe, viewers will probably want to remain on a strict low-fat diet for the rest of their lives.
It’s not a film you should watch while you’re eating, but Hungry Joe is still one of the most harrowing and thought-provoking horror shorts you’re likely to see in a long time. If you’re looking for something which presents the horror genre through the lens of social realism with some implied supernatural elements sprinkled in, this is essential viewing.