As an indie movie reviewer, I sometimes get sent films I’ve never heard of. Some projects are so obscure that there’s not any information online so I can see what I’m getting myself into. This can lead to surprising gems or barely watchable flops. So when I was asked to review Ida Joglar’s The Gaze for the Born of A Woman block that took place during the 2018 Fantasia International Film Festival, I had absolutely no idea what I had in front of me (although, I did find a trailer AFTER watching the short). So… what’s the verdict?
Presented by Unbundled Underground, The Gaze is a 14 minute horror short directed, written and edited by Ida Joglar (A Girl Like Anna 2017) and co-produced by Cesar Berrios (Antes Que Cante El Gallo 2016) and Sam Kretchmar (The Rat Slayer of Hillside NJ 2015). The cast includes Siri Miller (Crazy White Chicks TV series), Drew Moore (#WarGames TV series), Jennifer Rostami and The Glass Castle’s Josh Caras. The music for the short was composed by Ali Helnwein (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot 2016) while Director Ida Joglar and Joseph White created the visual FX.
The film begins with Mayra (Miller), a dedicated research assistant whose late night chemical analysis work brings her to the attention of Dr. Booker (Moore), one of the most acclaimed scientists in her lab. He offers her a cup of tea in his office, to which she reluctantly agrees. The door closes behind them, and as the camera pans back, the leaded glass in Booker’s office door explodes out into the hallway. Later, when friend Josh (Caras) tries to kiss a drunken Mayra, she panics and tries to leave, even as the lights flicker and her wine glass cracks. This time, however, Mayra is aware of what’s going on around her. Did she cause this glassy disruption? Her scientific mind can’t help but research this extraordinary, metaphysical ability, and wonder just how she can use it in the future.
The Gaze is a wonderful piece of filmography. The contrast between the bright, cold, antiseptic lab and the doctor’s dark, disturbing, ruttish behavior is perfect in its delivery. It’s not uncommon for people of power to take advantage of those below them, expecting silence in return for their grievous practices. I was irritated but not really surprised that Mayra’s friend, Jenny (Rostami), didn’t believe her when she admitted to being attacked by her boss. Despite the #MeToo movement, so many people out there still think that the memory of the assault is merely the result of the victim’s overactive imagination or something they allowed to happen and then regretted later. Jenny even mentions how she thinks Josh has a crush on Mayra, bare hours after her friend told her that she had been violated the night before. The whole situation is so depressing and irreparable, not only in the short but in the world at large.
As for the film itself, I was hugely impressed by the quality and detail involved in The Gaze. There was not a wasted second of film, and every shot held meaning. One of the first things I noticed was the prominence of tiny noises. Sound Mixer Jesse Falitz did a wonderful job magnifying the little tinks and slithers of everyday sounds, making even the simplest of actions almost jarring to the listener. Although Drew Moore could be awkward and slightly stilted in his line delivery, Siri Miller, with her expressive eyes and twitching fingers, stole the show. The anxiety of her situation emanated off of her like a wave of heat shimmering above a desert road. I felt my own body tense with worried anticipation when she was alone in the bedroom with Josh, and I was so high-strung that I jumped when he lightly touched her elbow, despite his gentlemanly intentions. This is the mark of suburb acting from Miller and consistent, disciplined directing from Joglar.
There is no way to prepare yourself to watch The Gaze. Both men and women will find themselves twitching uncomfortably by the time the credits roll at the end. The short is emotional, distressing and unpleasant, but only in the amount of horror it brings forth. I’m not going to tell you how The Gaze ends, but I will leave you with a quote from Director Ida Joglar:
The ending is, of course, a little tongue in cheek. I wanted to play to men’s biggest fears and I wanted the overall tone to lure the viewer into an uncomfortable place, where they might be more receptive to the more serious theme. I hope it stays with people.
I can guarantee that it will. Do yourself a favor and check out The Gaze if it ever comes your way.