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The Independent Critic

Jessica Dennis, Stephen Fry, and Romy Hayhurst
Ida Melum
Hannah Kelso, Laura Jayne Tunbridge
11 Mins.

 "Night of the Living Dread" Screening at Indy Shorts 
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The word "perfection" is tossed an awful lot when it comes to the motion picture industry, however, it's difficult to think of a more applicable word than perfection when it comes to Ida Melum's 11-minute BAFTA-nominated animated short film Night of the Living Dread. Exquisitely constructed, Night of the Living Dread arrives at this week's Academy Award-qualifying Indy Shorts on the tail-end of its festival run that has included over 50 festival screenings along with a slew of awards including winning the prize for Best Student Film in the Annie Awards and two nominations in the BAFTA Awards - Best British Short Animation and Best Animation, BAFTA/LA Student Film Award. The film was also nominated for Best British Short in the 2021 British Independent Film Awards. 

In short (Sorry, I couldn't resist!), Night of the Living Dread is unquestionably one of the year's best animated shorts and so it makes sense that it's screening at one of the nation's top fests for short films. 

In Night of the Living Dread, a power outage ruins Ruby's bedtime routine leaving the frazzled young woman suddenly haunted by some very unwanted guests. The only way for Ruby to get a peaceful night of sleep is to confront her visitors face-to-face. 

Ruby is brought beautifully to life by Jessica Dennis, wringing all the psychological horror and comedy that she can out of this absolutely delightful 11-minute short film. She takes Ruby in multiple different directions as the story unfolds and we slowly realize exactly what's going on. It's rather delightful vocal work that dazzled me from beginning to end, Dennis managing to find all the wonderful little nuances here and always keeping us guessing what's unfolding in this twisty little tale. So impressive is Dennis's work that I found myself rushing over to IMDB to see what else she'd done and utterly surprised to find only four acting credits. 


Of course, I didn't have to look up Stephen Fry, the master of anything he attempts including this brief but entertaining turn as the meditation guru to whom Ruby gives her nightly routine. As young Ruby, Romy Hayhurst is warm and vulnerable and heartfelt and rather adorable. 

Director Ida Melum's work here is simply extraordinary as she brings wonderfully to life the story co-written by Hannah Kelso and Laura Jayne Tunbridge. Every moment, every word, and every beautifully realized movement is simply a delight to watch here and seldom has a short film left me so utterly bewildered and deeply, deeply moved. Joseph Stevenson's original score for the film complements the story perfectly and the lensing by Charlie Jenkins is simultaneously anxiety-ridden and hilarious. The entire production team truly does top-notch work here in bringing this vision to life. 

Having seen a good majority of the animated shorts screening at this year's Indy Shorts, I pity the jury for having to pick an award-winner because this truly is an outstanding year for animated shorts even for a festival that is dependably outstanding year after year. However, there's simply no doubt that Night of the Living Dread is one of the year's best animated shorts with a creative and engaging story magnificently told by inventive, precise animation and a terrific blend of anxiety, horror, humor, and I'd dare say even heart. You'll for sure want to make sure you check out Night of the Living Dread at Indy Shorts. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic