My favorite thing about Nicholas Vince’s directorial debut “The Night Whispered” is that it feels like something I would have read in one of my favorite horror anthologies as a kid. It feels right at home with the sorts of stories I’d read in The Dracula Book of Great Horror Stories or The Penguin Book of Classic Horror Stories. There’s something about this story that just feels so classical, and I think that’s what separated the film from several of the other shorts that I watched—not that they weren’t great—during Spooky Empire’s Horror Film Festival.
“The Night Whispered” relies heavily on mood and atmosphere. There are ways you think the story is going to go at first, but it manages to surprise even in a relatively short amount of time.
The story starts off with a group of people waiting for a train who start taking a shortcut that looks a bit like the moors of American Werewolf in London. There’s a couple, a girl that they just met who looks like she’d very much like to come between them, and a creepy old man played by Vince himself. Casting himself in his own short, knowing the role he’s famous for playing, you expect Vince to be the villain of the piece, but he’s not. Refreshingly, the man he plays is a very average level of creepy.
Instead, this is a much less traditional horror short. As they walk through the night, each one of them begins to hear a whispering. When they turn to address the speaker, they disappear. Even though you expect something terrible to happen to any people who wander off from civilization in a horror film of any length, this isn’t necessarily the route you expect it to take.
I’m very relieved that it does go in that direction, though, because the result is a very moody, classical short that stands out from many of its contemporaries. “The Night Whispered” feels at home with the likes of Poe and Algernon Blackwood. It’s a ghost story by way of Ten Little Indians.
As a directorial debut, this is strong. Vince establishes a strong mood throughout, but I think the ending is where the direction really shines because it’s the moment that could easily have destroyed the momentum of the piece. With even a slightly more overacted or showy finale, this could have felt like a middle-of-the-road episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark. Instead, you buy it. That’s really the success of any story: can it sell you on whatever’s happening? This one does.
I’ll admit that the ending was jarring for me at first. It’s a very unexpected thing to have a mysterious ghost story end on a bit of dialogue. But it’s an ending that feels at home in a 19th century piece. The sort of thing you’d see from the likes of Sheirdan LeFanu. But it’s also an ending that feels reminiscent of Clive Barker, who was always one of the best at giving his monsters a voice and a platform on which to speak.
Plus, even if you know them very well, directing dogs and children can be really tough, especially in your debut. From Hellraiser to Nightbreed to several short films, Vince has proven himself in front of the camera and has certainly proven himself as a storyteller with several stories and comics under his belt. Now, stepping behind the camera, he’s off to a great start.
WICKED RATING: 8/10