The Hoosier Films Annual Festival will be held online Sept. 3-6, 2020. For schedules and more information on the other films playing, visit the official festival site.
Songbird is about Ray (Jonathan Benton), a street musician who becomes obsessed with snapping photographs of unsuspecting women. He has a wall covered in them. One woman he jumped as she jogged down the street; another he snapped through the window of her dance studio as she practiced her routine. And so on and on and on. Women he’s captured, for himself alone. He owns them, he thinks. They’re his forever.
Unless they upset him.
Ray’s descent into madness is swift, and Songbird wastes little time building up to its big, bloody finale. Gore aside, the 16-minute horror short seems to have something on its mind about the way in which a troubled, isolated man can dehumanize and become territorial over women from afar. Obvious real-world parallels aren’t hard to come by, particularly tragic ones that end even more horribly than Ray’s dark journey. The use of each woman’s voice as Ray looks at, and interacts with, their photographs is a nice touch, bringing a supernatural element to the story without straining the allegory.
Dott (Emily Durchholz) is a singer and dancer in Terre Haute, Indiana, circa the 1920s — hoping to break free from her small-town vaudeville career to the heights of real stardom. Oscar (Kevin Roach), her manager, isn’t about to let that happen. Together they’ve been running a grift, hosting seances for rich locals. Mrs. Burke (Dana Wachtel) is one such woman, her husband missing and presumed dead.
Director Mikael Drobney made Viridian on a small budget in his home town of Terre Haute, with a focus on period-accurate costuming and set work — both well achieved. Like many lower-budget horror stories, it relies more on ambient atmosphere to create audience unease, although for the most part nothing here is particularly terrifying. The mystery-noir story is confusing, to say the least. Durchholz is good as Dott, though, and for the running time, the ins and outs of the actual plot she follows are secondary to wondering just where her character will end up next. What is Oscar’s plot? Who is the mysterious police detective, Henry Gale (Ray Graham)? Is the ghost of Mr. Burke haunting Dott? Is it ethical to rip off the rich with fake spirituality? There are a lot of plates spinning in Viridian. Some come crashing to the ground in the end, but it’s fun watching them fall.