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The Independent Critic

Payton Walker, Karla Shantz, and Jo Anna Van Thuyne
Daniel Brown & Kate McMeans
7 Mins.


 "The First Step" Offers Old Style Spooks 
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I can guarantee you that the short film The First Step has nothing to do with addiction unless, of course, you just so happen to be addicted to good old-fashioned horror flicks that emphasize thrills and chills over gore.

Co-written and directed by Daniel Brown and Kate McMeans, The First Step is a 7-minute spookfest starring Payton Walker as Sara, a young girl who has moved into an older, isolated house with her mother (Karla Shantz). If you've ever seen a horror flick in your life, then you already know that this idyllic home is going to be anything but idyllic.

It's not long before Sara finds herself increasingly tormented by a cellar dweller (played to chilling perfection by Jo Anna Van Thuyne), a creature of sorts who obviously doesn't take kindly to Sara's presence.

Given the film's short running time of a mere seven minutes, it's fairly obvious that not a whole heck of a lot goes on in The First Step. However, you can rest assured that what does go on is suspenseful, effective, and quite memorable.

The young actress Payton Walker does a terrific job of planting the seeds of normalcy early in the film only to weave teenage angst into genuine fear by film's end. It's a strong performance that is even stronger when you realize that this is definitely a microcinema project and Walker's performance doesn't have the benefit of special effects distractions or hyper-editing. Karla Shantz also does a nice job as Sara's mother, though she's given quite a bit less to do.

While this is a low-budget effort, Brown and McMeans do a nice job of building believable suspense. Brown lenses the film and wisely avoids any distracting gimmicks, while the film's original music from Jingle Punks companions the film quite nicely.

The First Step is already proving to be quite popular on the film festival circuit and should have no problem building a sustained festival life on the indie, underground, and horror fest circuits. For more information on the film, visit the film's website listed in the credits.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic