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Review: Jose Luis Anaya’s “TOC TOC”

Jose Luis Anaya is back with another award-winning short film. You may recognize his name as the mastermind behind Damian, which was one of the best short films I reviewed last year. While the production of Damian was lucky enough to feature a large crew and several location changes, TOC TOC was shot during the Corona Virus lockdown and was created using the bare essentials. Despite this obstacle, TOC TOC is picking up award wins across the globe and currently has an online premiere slated for later this month on YouTube. What is it about one man being tormented in his home at night, depicted in a five-minute short film that’s captivating the world? Well, you’ll just have to wait until TOC TOC premieres online to find out. For now, read on for my review of Jose Luis Anaya’s latest horror flick.

IF you’re a talented film-maker, which Jose certainly is, movie magic can still happen in a single location with a single actor. The writer/director needs to rely on atmospheric building and suspense to really sell their story, and that’s where TOC TOC hits a home run. The man, played by Jose himself, suffers from OCD and anxious tendencies, and as the story progresses, the viewer will start to wonder if he’s being preyed upon by a monster or if his own mental illnesses are being alarmingly increased due to the epidemic and its threats of mass death. Is the repeated knocking at the door a creature begging to come in, or his mind repeatedly asking for release? It’s a fun play on corporeal beast vs psychological manifestation that kept me entertained during this five minute movie.

TOC TOC was produced by Jose Luis Anaya and Juan Carlos Ramirez. Juan Carlos served as cinematographer and Eduardo Castellanos was assisted in editing by Anaya. TOC TOC finds a lot of good camera work, and its style is very modern and fits the digital age the current generation of horror viewers look for. The thing that stuck out to me, though, was the use of sound effects and the foley work. To me, the foley was louder than necessary, but I think that’s chalked up to a post-production decision. When you’re a lone and scared, or “going through it” in your mind, often the things around you sound louder than normal. It’s almost like your brain is trying to ground you back to reality, and that idea is brought to life beautifully in TOC TOC. It’s a realistic depiction of a mental breakdown that encompasses all five senses. So, this choice in volume is not a drawback at all.

I have no complaints except for disliking the last fifteen seconds.

Jose Luis Anaya continues to be a capable force in the horror genre. It’s clear that he’s more than capable of tackling shorts, as seen with Damian and TOC TOC, and in the future it will be interesting to see what he does with a feature-length story. TOC TOC is a simple night of fear and a psychological romp through uncertainty. Look for it online in the coming weeks.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)