With Christmas just days away, children across the globe are giddy with anticipation to see what Santa will bring. But some children, like the young protagonist in Dan Sully's short film Senka,know that Christmas isn't always a white wonderland. After the quiet young boy finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, his mother's boyfriend creates a mythical beast named Senka that punishes bad behavior and terrifies him into keeping a secret.
Instead of just being a traditional broken home narrative, Sully's bleak story is complemented by a well-defined ominous mood and a beautifully muted color palette. Where the similar Christmas horror film Krampus relied heavily on big-monster CGI for frights, this short cleverly injects fear into shadows, turning what is just out of sight into something scary and dangerous.
The film's main tension is not driven by the boyfriend or even the standard local gangsters, but from within the boy himself. That's where Senka lies and why Senka succeeds.
If you like Senka, you should check out Dan Sully's previous short film The Ellington Kid, about a different kind of urban legend. It will send your head spinning by the end.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as a film curator. He's the senior curator for Vimeo's On Demand platform. He has also programmed at Tribeca Film Festival, Rooftop Films, and the Hamptons International Film Festival.