A pivotal step-forward from his previous film, Josh Tanner’s twelve-minute short Wandering Soul is a jolt of fright that gnaws deeper than mere jump scares. That’s not to say The Landing, his last short, delivers only that; on the contrary, it was a perfect exhibition of how scares work, along with his 2018 short film, Reverse.
With his 2016 short film, however, Tanner wields the technical know-how and attuned genre instincts into a fully fleshed-out piece of horror.
Set in the labyrinthine Cu Chi tunnels during the Vietnam War, the film is inspired by true events, one that shows the extreme lengths warfare pushes people. Without giving away much, the story follows a Viet Cong soldier named Dao (Lap Phan) as he prays for his fallen comrades. When the tunnel walls wail, however, he realizes that something sinister is afoot.
Tanner’s work here is impressive. The scares of Wandering Soul are predicated on the tunnels themselves, a claustrophobic, purgatory-like subterranean maze. Tanner peppers the scenes with just enough stylistic and editing choices that make the scares – especially the one at the film’s mid-section – in my opinion, perfect.
The way that the story plays out feels like the beginning of something bigger. And certainly, there are bigger and more complex themes it can explore with spirituality and war. Tanner, as it happens, has written a full-length script following Wandering Soul‘s story, and I, for one, am excited to see where he takes it and it takes him.
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The Short List is our running list of noteworthy short features available online. Each week, we recommend a short film worth watching.