Set in a dystopian future, we get to peek into the lives of a few people who live in a city which is surrounded by a huge wall in Fred Cavender’s short film The Damned.
As a youngster, every few weeks I would buy a copy of 2000AD – the king of British comic books – and although I enjoyed catching up with the stories and main characters of Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Zenith, my favourite aspect of the comics were always ‘Tharg’s Futureshocks’.
For those of you who don’t know, ‘Futureshocks’ was the name given to a long-running series of short strips that started in the British comic in 1977 and still appear in the monthly issues today. The format of the series would be a two or three page, self-contained science fiction story.
These stories would be seen as a testing ground for new artists, writers and creators. Modern-day comic book luminaries such as Steve Moore, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman and the legendary Alan Moore all had some of their earliest work published as Future Shocks.
The excellent new short film ‘The Damned’, written and directed by Fred Cavender, is the type of story I would rush out to buy all those years ago and Cavender’s writing certainly wouldn’t look out of place amongst the pages of the ‘Galaxy’s Greatest Comic’ and his name alongside those writers mentioned. That said, I am glad that I got to see this particular future shock on the screen first.
The Damned opens with a wonderfully cinematic shot of a large cityscape surrounded by an even larger wall. The image lasts for only a few seconds but it receives my first (slight) criticism, mainly because this great shot is over far too quickly. I wanted more time to process and bask in both the beauty and the horror of this scene.
It is never explained why there is a huge wall surrounding this city but what we are given is a few glimpses into the lives of some of the citizens who live in its ominous shadow. Over the course of the fifteen-minute runtime, we see the seeds of a potential relationship grow, a rebellious young lady taking on her parents and the wall itself. We also get to meet a salesman who makes a living selling digital windows that are programmed to show different views to help enlighten people’s daily lives and finally a major incident that will change all of these lives forever.
We first meet Lucas (Rob Lawrence) as he bumps into Polly (Bess Davies) they begin with small talk and gradually pluck up the courage to ask each other out. It’s a sweet meet and cute scene played lovingly by Lawrence and Davies. From the moment they interact there is an immediate sense of familiarity. We feel immediately that these characters have known each other for a while and have a history; it’s a nice touch that manipulates our feelings towards liking these two characters.
We are then introduced to a troubled young girl named September, played with pluck by Kaitlin McGill. September is a bit too histrionic for me, I didn’t have much feeling towards her but I appreciated the dynamic. It felt like “stroppy teen” was the stock direction given, as she lives and argues with her parents and gets in trouble with the police. McGill does okay with the role but I felt September was one of the weaker elements of an otherwise excellent script.
Next, we are introduced to Carter – a salesman played with an understated sadness by Lloyd Lewis. He’s happy enough selling his digital windows to customers but he wants something more. Lewis is good in the way he conveys these feelings with a simple facial expression or a nervous laugh. Carter was certainly a character I wanted to know more about.
Overall The Damned is a terrific short film, like all great Sci-Fi, its dystopian view of the future is not too far removed from the reality we currently live in and its visuals are, at times, stunning. There are a few special effects in the movie but they are minimal and used sparingly, which adds to the overall futuristic feel of the film
Director Fred Cavender deserves much credit for his efforts. He comes across as a great storyteller with a good eye for visuals. His directing style was reminiscent of Alex Proyas and if he continues to produce films like the quality of The Damned, I have no doubt he will soon be classed as a visionary new director and one of Britain’s brightest talents.