‘Keep Mum’, directed by Luana Di Pasquale, is a short horror that has done wonders in the film festival circuit. From winning Best International Director Award at the Oregon Scream Week Horror Film Festival in 2019 to Best Experimental Film at NYCA in 2020, Keep Mum has over 7 wins, 14 nominations and 30 official selections.
‘Keep Mum’ tells the tale of a woman pushed to the edge by domestic abuse, violence and the death of her child. The story follows the lead (Nadira Murray) being haunted by her child (Cameron Murray), as she blames herself for his death. Exploring themes of violence, abuse, alcoholism and grief, Di Pasquale packs some heavy themes into a short 15-minute window, but she does it in a way that leaves a mark on the viewer.
From the beginning, you see the lead actor in a compromising position, yet for some reason, unbeknownst to the audience, you are still rooting for her. From the camera angles to the soundtrack to the acting, everything works in unison to make you want to know more about her journey and how she ended up covered in blood on Christmas day, abusing a bottle of alcohol whilst dancing around in her living room.
There’s a certain power to Nadira Murray’s character. Even though she spends the majority of the film either intoxicated or distraught, she is on a journey where she is forced to confront her issues head-on, which given the circumstances, is not an easy feat. However, she is determined, and despite what you think of her handling of the situation, it’s a trait that you can appreciate.
The strong female lead has evolved in film over time, and many directors are redefining its meaning. Di Pasquale shows her female lead in vulnerable, comprising positions that do not detract from her power which in my opinion comes from having a female director.
In most horror films, the emotional connection to the characters is lacking or virtually non-existent, which is what makes ‘Keep Mum’ so special. Nadira’s character is not your typical female trophy character; she is not sexualised and disposable as so many female characters in the genre are. Instead, she is broken, soft, strong and powerful all at the same time.
1 in 3 women globally experience domestic violence, according to WHO, and although the way the situation was resolved in ‘Keep Mum’ is not one all women can relate to, the build-up is certainly familiar. Di Pasquale depicts an over-exaggerated way of reclaiming back the power many victims of domestic violence lose. Shedding light on such a prevalent issue in the way Di Pasquale has done highlights the issue in a respectful yet hard-hitting way.
Di Pasquale brings fresh new depictions to the horror genre and reminds us all that you can tell a much more riveting, depth filled story with a minimal cast and some beautifully eery establishing shots.