Developing a reputation as an emerging creative force in UK horror, writer-director Katie Bonham returns with fourth short Mindless, a challenging, claustrophobic and affecting work that feels informed by the distinct style that she’s making her own, while also feeling like a natural step forward in terms of craft.
At the core of Mindless‘ success is an impressively well-rounded performance by Nicholas Vince, who continues building on his formidable recent body of short film work as Peter, an elderly man afflicted with memory loss who requires frequent visitation from support staff. The film opens on the commencement of one of these visits, and his carer enters to find his living room trashed, seemingly not for the first time. As she chides Peter for the mess, he earnestly claims that the mess was caused by “her”, an unseen woman who he claims was in his home. Vince is on top form in this moment: all exasperation and vulnerability, authentic in his pleas both of his own innocence and for someone to believe him and give him the help he needs.
It’s this protestation that sets up Mindless‘ effectively simple plot, and as the mystery unravels, the film shows its muscle across the board. Bonham’s third short The Paper Round found success in its minimalism, and its this same sidestepping of showy, over-stylised direction that works in her favour again here. Taking a step back and letting strong writing and performances do the heavy lifting, it’s an effective reminder that Bonham deals in real substance.
Carried along by frequent collaborator Pat Fagan’s airy-but-ominous score, Mindless is a polished exercise in escalating tension and haunting psychodrama. Pulling the best from a strong cast, it’s another sure-footed piece of work from one of British horror’s most exciting new voices.