Written, produced and directed by James Dearden, this 1977 UK made short film stars Richard O’Brien as The Man and Charlotte Cornwell providing the short’s only line of dialogue. The Contraption is one of a handful of horror shorts that would appear as filler for various late night programming on the USA Network back in that wonderful era known as the 80’s. I first encountered The Contraption at a pretty young age, an age when I was really falling in love with the horror genre, and seeing something such as this at that time in my youth left quite the memorable impact.
When it comes down to it, much of that impact would have to do with one thing, and that is simply how well made The Contraption is. It’s effective in its simplicity and grabs your attention only to lead you down a path to a very dark place. The music as well as the sound design are nothing short of terrifying, and with the intricate sounds so amplified – so exaggerated – it is difficult not to get roped into what this man might be doing. With each intense turn of a screw, with every rip of the hand saw, with every smack of the mallet, there is a certain impact that each of theses individual moments have in what they collectively lead up to.
The setting is nothing more than what appears to be a poorly lit basement, where the only light that is cast comes from a single lamp above. The darkness of this man’s surroundings engulfs his project, making it seem as if he is in an alternate place where all his focus is on the task at hand. In many ways, this dark and empty setting speaks incredible relevance as to where he is emotionally, as he is a man that is working to take his own life, a man that is in his darkest of moments.
Watching a man carefully craft his own demise is quite impactful, seeing him actually do it just furthers that, but what really sets this short on the top shelf of quality is that one little line of dialogue. “Out of all the men in the world, I ended up marrying a bloody mouse.” It’s that last little touch that adds volume to what was just witnessed on screen. That line of dialogue makes you wonder why he has done this, and in a way, it adds depth to the situation and character, leaving quick theories to stew in the brain for a few moments afterwards. It’s what kept a short like The Contraption embedded in a young horror fan’s mind for many years to come, and even now, after so many years have passed, it still carries its weight in horror gold.
Special Guest Contributor – Matt House
Possibly a horror fan out of the womb, Matt House has spent much of his life infatuated with all things off beat and scary, something that is reflected in his ever evolving taste in cinema. He spends much of his time – wasting other people’s time – with his own personal movie blog, Chuck Norris Ate My Baby. He also writes for Paracinema… The Blog, BThroughZ and is one of the founding fathers of the Horror Blogger Alliance.