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Soho Horror Film Festival: From the Depths, Peter the Penguin, and Under the Lather

From the Depths

The second film in this weekend’s “animals at home” theme from Soho Horror Film Festival’s Shockdown Saturdays was the haunting shark drama From the Depths. I loved the concept from when I first read about it because I’ve watched all those big shark attack horror movies like 47 Meters Down and The Shallows and never really considered what it might be like for these survivors after their intense ordeal. As with any other week, the movie followed two theme-fitting shorts that both shocked and entertained.

The first short, Peter the Penguin, was so downright messed up that, of course, I loved it. Nigel (Chris Butler) wants to make a good impression on his partner’s daughter (Mia Hemerling), but when the couple arrives at the house, tragedy has struck. Peter the Penguin, a plush toy, has suffered a horrible accident and his fluff is seeping from his stitching. Nigel, thinking it’s just a childish game, goes inside to try and help, but his partner (Alex Kapila) becomes just as emotional as her daughter and, to make matters worse, EMTs (Peter Terry and Joe Capella) have been called to help as well. The concept snowballs into a tremendously cartoonish scene until Nigel feels dark overtones setting in from everyone in the room and decides to leave. What happens next is so hilariously dark and gratifying—but you need to see this short for yourself—I sat in shock and laughed at the same time. Andrew Rutter has crafted nightmare fuel from the perspective of a child’s imagination, and it is jaw-droppingly fantastic and hilarious. 

An EMT applies an oxygen mask to Peter the Penguin who's neck is leaking stuffing
Peter the Penguin

The follow-up short, Under the Lather (Sous la mousse), follows a young boy, Ivan (Lysandre Robic), and his phone-addicted babysitter (Hélène Vienne). Unaware of how the pipes have been making noise throughout the evening, the babysitter forces Ivan into the bathtub after witnessing an octopus-monster drip into the bubble-filled bath. This short directed by Ollivier Briand is actually quite surprising in that it is somewhat heartfelt. Don’t get me wrong, like most of these horror shorts, it definitely ends in blood and carnage, but it isn’t often you get the feels for a boy and his octopus-monster. 

As From the Depths started, I contemplated horror pictures that dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a central character’s immense tragedy. Not many stories find their way to recounting a victim’s struggle after a horrific event. Rob Zombie’s Halloween II came to mind with the psychological aspect of Laurie’s transformation into Michael Myers. I also considered that Scream may have gone part of the way with Sidney (Neve Campbell) dealing with the loss of her mom to a brutal murder. Hereditary definitely dealt with Annie’s (Toni Collette) breakdown after a loss of a child. Though this was a good start, it still stands that it isn’t often we see what happens to characters after they suffer a life-altering experience, especially if the movie never gets a sequel.  

Liz holds her hands out in front of her trying to keep something on the other side of the camera at bay as she backs herself up to the kitchen wall
Angelica Briones as Liz in From the Depths

From the Depths is a look at the mental state of a shark attack survivor, Liz (Angelica Briones), as she tries to get on with her life after the traumatizing incident that claimed the lives of both her sister and her boyfriend. From the start of the film, I didn’t know what I was in for or the type of film this was going to be. Some films that deal with serious topics such as this focus their efforts on the terror and the dramatic aspects of the central plot. From the Depths, however, was all over the map. It’s funny, serious, and at times terrifying which, if you’ve never met anyone that suffers from the condition, can be the range of emotions at any given moment.  

Liz struggles to get better, talking with her therapist (Liz Fenning) about staying away from medication and keeping her girlfriend, Roberta (Terra Strong), at arm’s length while her nightmares of the shark attack keep her awake night after night to the point she begins seeing the shark roaming her hallways during the day. The plot begins as a seminally interesting way to psychologically suggest the manifestation of the shark in Liz’s current at-home state as a way for the memory to keep its power over Liz, but From the Depths doesn’t stay that engaging for long. I don’t understand why it decided to opt for the cliché when it was doing a good job of being different, but as Liz’s guilt starts forcing her to see the ghosts of her dead boyfriend, Seth (Taylor Jorgensen), and sister, Payton (Marissa Godinez), the psychological shark movie becomes more about appeasing ghosts. What do Payton and Seth want? Roberta, gone for good. 

Seth and Payton appear in front of a bright window, their flesh is rotting and covered with sores
Taylor Jorgensen as Seth and Marissa Godinez as Payton in From The Depths

It seems easy to fit this plot into the theme though, right? A guilty conscience and a powerful memory haunt Liz, forcing her to give up one of the two people trying to help her battle her issues. Instead, From the Depths just kind of runs out of steam about halfway through, making the final act a never-ending merry-go-round for Liz and Roberta’s will-they-won’t-they sex life before attaching an uninspired ending that never makes use of any of the potential setups the film had put in place. What begins as a generally compelling film about PTSD just completely devolves into a disappointing story. The worst part is that I briefly thought at the beginning that there was a shot the film may go exactly where it ends up, and I argued with myself about it based on the boldness of the premise. The fact that the first half of the film is entertaining and very well written and directed by Jose Montesinos shows promise for his future endeavors, but From the Depths is no day at the beach.

Shockdown Saturdays are continuing throughout March alongside fun interactive events like next week’s virtual Murder Mystery Zoom Party. If you’d like to be a part of the festival, all you have to do is become a member of the festival’s Facebook page and click the links in the announcements section when the films become available on Saturday. All showings are based on local time in Soho, England—check with their website and Facebook page for times (often they leave the links open until Sunday at midnight). The festival is free, but Soho Horror Film Festival is operating solely on viewer support donations and entirely without sponsors. So, if you like what you see, I’d strongly encourage you to support them so we can all indulge in future events.

From the Depths is currently available to Buy or Rent in the US on Amazon.

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Sean Parker

Written by Sean Parker

Sean lives just outside of Boston and loves all types of horror movies.

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