Back in 1843, the legendary Edgar Allan Poe first published his iconic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”. Some 173 years later, filmmaker Christine Parker remigines the classic horror story in her latest short film in The Tell-Tale Heart: Sisters.
This adaptation tells the story of two sisters, Margaret and Caroline (played by Cathy Mattson and Carrie Jones, respectively), exploring their tumultuous and strained relationship, drawing very heavily from 1962’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? given that Caroline, who was once a beautiful starlet, is now an aging, seemingly broken-spirited recluse who is being cared for by her bitter, vengeful sister. Caroline lost her eye, giving the must-have nod to Poe‘s “vulture eye” of the original story, which of course plays an important role in its iconography, as any literary fan will tell you. Margaret plots to murder her sister in an act of resentment and revenge, and is of course tormented by the constant sound of a beating heart. I don’t really think spoilers apply when they’re of a story written over a century ago; but just to be a good sport here, I’ll say no more of the plot and move right along to the impressive technical aspects.
Director, cinematographer, and editor Christine Parker paints an absolutely beautiful cinematic picture, blending exceptional, Alfred Hitchcock-esque cinematography with a beautifully haunting score and stunning vintage locations (entirely shot in rural North Carolina) all awash in masterful black and white visuals. This is all so well done that if you’re not careful, you can easily forget you’re watching a film that was made in 2016.
Clocking in at a mere twenty minutes in length, this short film never once drags, keeps the tension and suspense unnervingly thick throughout, and would make a perfect addition to any horror anthology film or television series – if it were to ever go that route, that is – which personally, this writer really hopes for given the tragic limitations of short films in the realm of cinema and distribution, even in today’s market.
The film premiered at the 2016 ConCarolinas Short Film Festival, where it was very well-received by all in attendance, this writer included, and ultimately took home the annual award for “Best Adaptation” – an impressive feat for a frankly impressive film. It is currently available on DVD via production company Sick Chick Flicks.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, The Tell-Tale Heart: Sisters is an absolutely incredible film that is a must-see for anyone who loves a good bit of cinema. Christine Parker has blended elements of Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Aldrich, and Alfred Hitchcock in a true mini-masterpiece that is, by far, her best work to date. Mattson and Jones turn in a stellar performance that is both haunting and believable, while the visul appeal of this harkens back to the golden age of great cinema. Do yourself a favor and go see this film. If you’re anything like me, you most certainly won’t regret it. – 9.5/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine