A tension-filled 9-minute short film that you do not want to end, Dropping excels at keeping the audience in the dark as well as on their toes. RJ Collins’ film has a great concept that should be explored in feature form.
Upon her father’s insistence, Nora joins her stepbrother and his friends on their ritual Dropping, but as it turns deadly, she must confront the shocking reality that her father may not have been honest with her about the risks involved.
Taking inspiration from the Dutch scouting tradition, RJ Collins’ Dropping takes the idea and furthers into a more extreme iteration. Dropping, in essence, is about making a child independent, not just relying on technology or their parents to get them out of a jam. So, in good European fashion, children are placed into a car or van and literally dropped off into the woods with a map, compass and a torch and made to make their way to a specific site. Already, that sounds like absolute rocket fuel for a horror writer, and Anna Klassen has taken that and fully ran with it.
With so many avenues to go down with this concept, no idea is a bad one. Klassan opts for the hunted-by-a-lone stranger approach, which works terrifically well. Once the kids are dropped off on their own, you are worried for them; these are not teenagers who are accustomed to being left in the middle of nowhere; they are not scouts who have training in the wild. From what we can see, they are suburban teenagers who love their comforts. So, by giving us this fish out of water aspect, once trouble does come their way, there is little they can do but run.
With this darker take, though, we come to the realisation early that finding yourself with a head wound and bound by ropes, with a watch saying how long is left, while you are all on your own, most likely isn’t how the experience is meant to go. From there, the characters and the audience are thrown into a chaotic rollercoaster that strays from finding your way home to doing your best to survive. Quickly learning that this isn’t what a drop should be like, the fear among the group is tangible. You feel the tension the young cast has here as they perfectly encapsulate that sense of panic you would have in not only being in that situation.
There are multiple strengths within Dropping, from the non-stop movement from the camera to help convey the confusion and turmoil these characters are having to how well the cast does together. This is a short that could very quickly and easily go awry if cast poorly. Luckily, this group understood what to do and, as a result, excelled in their performances.
The ending of Dropping leaves us with many questions about what is next for our group and the world they have found themselves in. Giving us such an open film allows us to come up with our own ideas, which is great for a short like this. It manages to dodge the issue of being too open-ended, which can always be a disaster for a short with other loftier aspirations.
What is evident throughout the film is that there is serious intent to move the short into feature-length status as, at times, it feels as if we are watching a proof of concept instead of something that can fully stand on its own. Dropping would certainly work as a feature with what has been laid out here. This feels like an angrier, nastier version of The Hunger Games/Cabin in the Woods. One to keep an eye on progress-wise, for sure.
That is perhaps the only negative to Dropping; you want at least another 10 minutes of this story to see what happens next or for it to explain itself. It hooks you in but then purposely doesn’t further itself. As a short, it does the job of bringing enough fear to the table to worry and more than enough intrigue to try and work out what is happening.
The 19th HollyShorts Film Festival is running between 10th – 20th August with in person and digital screenings available through the 10th to 27th August.
For more information go to www.hollyshorts.com
Coverage of HollyShorts Film Festival 2023:
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