There's no spoken dialogue within the 12-minutes of running time for writer/director Julien Regnard's dark and mysterious Ronde de Nuit, or The Night Watch. Yet, The Night Watch is not a silent film and those sounds are often intense and haunting in this exceptional entry into Indy Shorts International Film Festival's horror block of short films affectionately known as Heartland Horror. One of the newest genres of cinema to make its way into the Heartland Film catalogue, horror has long been ideal because of the unique ways it tackles life's darkest moments and the power of cinema to address those dark moments in ways that immerse, heal, nurture, challenge, and provoke.
Indeed, The Night Watch provokes in dramatic and impactful ways.
The story centers around a couple, George and Christine, who are witnessed rushing out of what was obviously a rather fancy affair. They continue arguing on their way home, a journey interrupted by a brutal car crash. When George regains consciousness, the passenger car door is ajar and Christina has disappeared. In the moments to follow, he will experience a very real descent into hell.
There is a simplicity to the storytelling within The Night Watch, though closely watching the film's imagery adds layers of complexity. The animation itself is extraordinarily beautiful, a weaving together of 2D and 3D animation and a style that is nearly impossible to not watch. Rest assured, however, that this is an animated short film for the adults with mature themes, violence, and sexuality all at play here. While far from graphic, it is most certainly unmistakable. The Night Watch most certainly fits well within Heartland Horror and is one of the year's most unique and engaging entries. Watching the film is a hypnotic experience.
I admittedly have a deep fondness for black-and-white animation, as is the case here, and The Night Watch is a beautifully realized, fluid experience accompanied by a score from Ali Helnwein that envelopes us alongside Regnard's heightened suspense and compelling storytelling. Curated by my film buds over at Midwest Film Journal, Heartland Horror is always an arresting experience and this year's selections may very well be the best yet. A unique yet unforgettable entry into the Heartland Horror catalogue, The Night Watch adds to Regnard's growing reputation as a remarkably gifted director of animated films.