If you like your horror movies to get straight to point then horror shorts could be the perfect option for you, as they offer digestible chunks of the genre but don’t skimp on the scares. Writer and director Jennifer Nicole Stang’s latest offering The Whistler (2018) landed on Shudder this month, and with a runtime of just over eleven minutes, it’s a great way to get your horror fix in an instant.

Inspired by The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Robert Browning, The Whistler follows Lindsey (Karis Cameron) as she spends the night babysitting her little sister, Becky (Baya Ipatowicz). Lindsey is more interested in texting her boyfriend and watching horror movies, but Becky insists they read a bedtime story in the form of a beautifully illustrated book called The Whistler.

While the storybook tells an innocent tale of the Whistler (Nelson Leis) baptizing the town’s children in a lake, Lindsey says the ‘real story’ is far more sinister, with a crazy man leading 130 virgins to their death, and being hung outside of the town hall as punishment. However, much like Freddy Krueger before him, he vows to haunt the town and take their children in revenge. When Lindsey doses off and finds Becky missing, it seems like the tale of the Whistler could be true after all.

It can be hard to get horror shorts right, especially if you’re trying to create a whole lore and present us with an original villain, but this is something The Whistler manages perfectly. The storybook and Lindsey’s attempts to scare her little sister give us a fantastic introduction to the character of the Whistler, and while we do get some flashes of him as the film reaches its conclusion, Stang is careful not to show us too much. We see just enough to draw us into the character, and want to see more of him as a result. The makeup effects are amazing and create a standout character who can easily give us the creeps for the short amount of time he is on screen.

Another central feature of the film is the falls themself. Shot on location at Alexander Falls in Canada, Stang makes sure to show off all their beauty as much as possible. The opening and closing shots of the film are epic drone shots as we sweep over the water, with the dark, churning effect of the falls suggesting that there is something more mysterious at work in this town.

While we don’t spend enough time with Lindsey and Becky to really get to know them, there is enough of an introduction that we care what happens to them. They work well as a device to introduce the Whistler to us and allow us to see what his true intentions are with the children of the town.

The Whistler is a proof-of-concept short for the full-length feature Blackwood Falls. Itis perfect for whetting our appetites for what’s to come, while also working well on its own as a standalone story. It makes me incredibly excited for what Stang will bring to the table with Blackwood Falls, and I look forward to learning more about the sinister storybook world she has created.

Rating: ★★★★

Now Available on Shudder 

Directed by: Jennifer Nicole Stang

Written by: Jennifer Nicole Stang

Cast: Karis Cameron, Baya Ipatowicz, Alison Wandzura, John Emmet Tracy, Nelson Leis, Copernicus the rat