Eliza’s Diary (2012) Short Film Review
Director: Christian Grillo and Carmela Hayslett
Writer: Carmela Hayslett (screenplay)
Stars: Carmela Hayslett, D.M. Folger, Jr. and Chuck Maher
Reviewed by Char Hardin
4 out of 5
“I don’t see a lot of diaries or journals in a thrift shop…don’t people usually buy them with the intent of writing in them?”
Eliza and friend Jack enter a unique thrift shop in an effort to “soothe the soul” by “shopping” and take the lingering emotional upset of the recent break-up with Eliza’s boyfriend off her mind. Inside the shop Eliza discovers a diary. She was puzzled over finding one in a thrift shop. She comments Mr.Wagstaff (husband to the owner), “I don’t see a lot of diaries or journals in a thrift shop.” To which he replied, “Yeah, I suppose you’re right…maybe the guy never got a chance to write in it.”
Eliza pays the two bucks for the diary and exits the store, but not before the camera zooms in on Mr. Wagstaff’s eyes for sinister stare. Fades to black and next viewer sees Eliza reading a book sitting on her couch and her doorbells rings. It is her brother Robbie fresh from being kicked out of his girlfriend’s home. Needing a place to stay he asks to stay and less than enchanted with the idea, Eliza consents. She goes into another room and begins writing her personal feelings on her current situation. The next morning she reads her diary and is angry to see someone had written in her diary and she naturally assumed it was Robbie. She approaches a still sleeping Robbie and slaps his ear to wake him and he denies writing in it and even pokes fun at her for having one.
Eliza returns to her diary and is stunned moments later when it writes in itself. She is a little intrigued when she writes under the comment, “who are you?” And when it replies by writing in “I am Alfred” she totally freaks out! The conversation between Eliza and her diary starts out congenial and takes a turn toward darkness and she pushes it away and leaves the room. This is a good stopping point…or I will ruin the ending.
What Eliza’s Diary has done is rekindle a memory of something I couldn’t put my finger on. I remember a movie with a similar storyline and had to Google it and found the title. It was a Canadian horror movie made for television starring Brian Krause (Charmed) called Devil’s Diary. In the Devil’s Diary the holder of the book had but to write what they desired and it would be granted. Petty characters wished for harm to others. In Eliza’s Diary there is a spirit or entity that is trapped within the confines of the diary and it wants out.
Alfred knows Eliza’s thoughts because she has written them in the diary…which still very much HIS and not hers. He reads her frustrations with her boyfriend and now having her brother staying with her, so when she wishes to find a way to have her brother leave…Alfred offers to help her. His method of helping scared Eliza. She learns that in order for Alfred to help her, he has to be released from the book…she refused and closed the book. From the time she purchased the diary her actions set into motion the events that followed. Wicked events indeed.
Eliza’s Diary (screenplay) was written by Carmela Hayslett, whom many horror fans know as Roxsy Tyler a character she portrays in her Carnival of Horror Show. Stripped of her Roxsy persona, viewers are seeing Carmela in a different light not just as an actress but writer of the screenplay for Eliza’s Diary. I haven’t seen the actual screenplay, but the story was brought to life by herself and D.M. Folger (Jack), Chuck Maher (Robbie) and Carl Stevens (Mr. Wagstaff) beautifully.
Speaking for myself…I saw Carmela’s Eliza go through various range of emotions and in the dealings of her character’s current life experiences: her recent break-up, embarrassment, anger, betrayal is shown in her conversation in the car with Jack, just before a light shopping experience, to the untimely arrival of an unwanted houseguest and then to the discovery of a entity in her diary. It is after the discovery where she goes from animated excited state to a terrified and hurt that struck a chord with me. Carmela did all these emotions very well, however during her crying scenes which followed a disturbing act, I would have liked to have seen some tears fall to go with the crying she was doing. She didn’t put out a fake whiny cry…it sounded genuine…it was just devoid of tears. The adding of tears would have delivered that emotion that much more for me.
The sound effects as well as the creative angles the film was shot added to the creepy gothic feel of the story. It brought out the, “don’t look”, “what’s behind that door”, “NO! DON’T DO THAT” talking to the screen, that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used to for me when watching horror movies. My overall viewing experience was good and I had fun talking and yelling at the screen and must congratulate the sound effects team: Christian Grillo, Chuck Maher, and David Gechman…job well done. Your work as well as the original music by Christian added to the story and didn’t cover or was added for unnecessary means…it worked with the story and enhanced the movement of the story’s flow.
A MILD SPOILER ALERT
Alfred is released and makes his presence known…I would have liked to have seen what Alfred looked like, but I believe the fear of the unknown was prominent in this film, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it can’t hurt you. In this film the filmmakers allowed the audience to use their imaginations by not showing what Alfred looked like. The unknowing fed into what scares a person and I actually liked it more by not seeing Alfred.
The film is eighteen minutes and forty-eight seconds long…I could really see this made into a feature length film given the funding needed to put into a production of that magnitude. I feel fortunate to be counted with the other reviewers who have seen this film and feel it would benefit well on a film festival circuit. Should this film be playing at any current or future film festivals, I recommend everyone grab a seat and enjoy some truly awesome filmmaking in Eliza’s Diary.
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