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Review: Slumberjack Entertainment’s The Widower

The first segment in Slumberjack Entertainment’s horror anthology, The Micro Killers, is ready to roll out and I received a sneak peak at the strange little adventure known as The Widower. The Micro Killers will be comprised of 15 original short films, all produced on a shoe-string budget in the UK. When this project was announced several months ago, I wondered if the 15 shorts would exist in their own universes or be linked together somehow. Well, considering the fact that the circular symbol that was plastered dead-center on the Micro Killers poster is heavily featured on the wall in The Widower, I think my question is answered. Although, I assume a deeper answer to just how the symbol links them all together will be uncovered in later segments. For now, The Widower finds an aging serial killer with his next youthful victim tied to a chair in a dirty cellar. As the killer’s long monologue unfolds, he divulges that there is an underground network of mass murderers, as well as privy information including what makes him ‘tick’ and drives him to torture. If the youth can survive the ordeal, clearly he can use this information to help other potential victims. But what are his odds in such a dark environment? Directed and edited by Peter Mckeirnon based on the screenplay by Neil Gallagher, The Widower stars Mr. Neil Gallagher himself, Sully Hay and Kate Dailey.

The Widower is sneaky. In the opening moments, I felt like I was watching a tamer version of Saw meets American Psycho. Whether it be the killer’s costume or the way he’s so calm and collected in the face of his own madness, it was a combination of elements that felt very akin to bigger titles in its subgenre of horror. Over the course of this nine minute short film, the killer sinks deeper and deeper into his own twisted little world, and yet he never breaks or sees anything wrong with his antics. It’s scary because he’s so comfortable with what he’s doing. He finds it normal and almost therapeutic. With a nod to the real-world savagery that real-world people do other humans, well, that’s far more terrifying than any zombie, ghost or monster lurking under the bed. The Widower is so calm that you actually begin to forget that you’re watching a horror film. Neil Gallagher does such a great job bringing his character to life, somehow giving him this charismatic and empathetic allure, that you have no choice but to listen to what he’s saying. Then, the suspense is able to grab you and shock you when you least expected it; and when the end credits roll, you’re left feeling betrayed and dismayed. What a powerful performance from Gallagher and expert film-making and production from “Dead Town” creator Peter Mckeirnon.

The Widower was shot in a single environment with three actors. It’s simple and organized and, yes, it falls into the independent film spectrum. It’s one of the least lit (literally lightning, not slang) projects from Slumberjack Entertainment. Due to its sleepy atmosphere and long monologue, I don’t know if it’s the right lead off for a highly anticipated horror anthology. It’s certainly a wonderful piece of underground cinema and as you can tell so far, I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw and what I felt. But a mainstream audience may say “pass” to it solely because it doesn’t have a big enough hook. A shuffle may be in order here. I’m also not a fan of the red filter that was used. Personal taste her; I’d rather it be normal or even black and white over tinted red. Still, The Widower is a conversation piece for sure and I love its promotional poster. If my only big complaint is that it’s not hard hitting enough to be an opener, the easiest remedy is to include it somewhere else in the movie. That way such a beautiful narrative isn’t wasted or forgotten. Can’t wait for the next piece to this interesting Micro Killers puzzle! Final Score: 7 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)