Aside from an irresistible desire to create, true indie artists orchestrate their own opportunities to experiment with their craft. Actor Charles Chudabala (Irrational Fear 2017 – read our review here) did exactly this not long ago with his directorial debut, Nightshade (2019 – read our review here). Returning to the director’s chair for his second labor of love titled 40uR, Chudabala (read our interview with him here) explores his witchy side through the dark arts bringing passion to both sides of camera.
Egos collide on the night of a blood moon as the last four witches of a dying coven gather to decide who will ascend, becoming a vessel of power. As Elyse (Erica Denise Curry: Try to Smile) bickers with Dominick (Alex Hogy: Induction), they receive a rude awakening when High Priestess Janelle (Jennifer Nangle: Malvolia: Queen of Screams) walks through the door revealing the duo fumbled a binding spell meant to prevent her from attending the night’s ritual. Whereas Nangle’s alter-ego, Malvolia, would likely be less merciful, Janelle forgives them, despite being met only with unwelcoming arrogance… except from Christopher (Charles Chudabala), who remains faithful until the end.
Calling for unity, Janelle reasons with Elyse, explaining that everyone’s cooperation and participation is necessary in order for the night’s bid for ascension to work. However, for the uninitiated, the quest for power utilizing the dark arts never ends well and always comes with a price.
Being no stranger to the macabre through her portrayal of the Queen of Screams, Nangle radiates similar wicked vibes as Janelle. While a softer, more human side is brought to this character, Nangle still commands a certain level of respect and authority… regardless of the failed attempt at betrayal. This is complemented by Curry, who brings out the bratty personality of Elyse, and Hogy, who serves up a touch of comedic relief. However, it’s Chudabala who brings a heartfelt performance to the screen portraying Christopher as a solemn, soft-spoken individual with the most to lose and nothing to gain.
Although the plot could have benefited from a stronger, clearer twist and further context for the story, 40uR maintains a strong witchcraft horror vibe indie genre fans will love. However, this piece of horror’s biggest strength is found in the great care dedicated to the characters, giving them depth in a moment of sincerity. As the coven members talk about their own personal struggles and desires and the bond they’ve developed, we’re given reason to care about their pending fate. This crucial element, often missed in other modern films, serves as the heart and soul of 40uR, bringing out substance in the brief 10 minute runtime.
Not only do short films serve as samples of a filmmaker’s work, they’re also a less expensive strategy used to fine tune one’s skill in one element of storytelling at a time. In the case of Chudabala’s latest work, that would be character development. He pulls this off with purpose, bringing out initial impressions of each character followed by a deeper dive into backstories and reasons behind each one’s motive. That is, except for Dominick, who’s a humorous poster-child of materialism.
Although it isn’t perfect, 40uR is a short, charming taste of spellbinding witchcraft horror with a chilling conclusion. Watch Chudabala’s second directorial endeavor now for free by clicking below!