By: Mariam Bastani
Starring Yessenia Rivas, Yeena Sung, and Laura Guzman
Directed and written by Christian Alexander Morán
In May of 2014, two 12-year-old girls in Waukeshaw, WI took horror and superstition to the next level when they attempted to murder another teen as a sacrifice to the Slender Man. Remember that? Making national news, we got a glimpse of what motivated these girls. Set in Queens, NY, Christian Alexander Morán’s Let’s Play Dead Girl is a 23 minute short film that explores the motivations that drove these girls to kill. Creating a fictional supernatural deity-like creature named Alto (which means “tall” in Spanish), best friends Josephine (Yessenia Rivas) and Juda (Yeena Sung) create a website dedicated to Alto. The two 12-year-olds gain thousands of followers, furthering their obsession and leading them to the conclusion that they must sacrifice their friend Consuelo (Laura Guzman) for him to materialize.
The pace of Let’s Play Dead Girl packs a lot of story in a short amount of time, leaving you on edge and feeling for the characters. There are situations in this film that will dig up some uncomfortable feelings from our youth. Moments that make you want to shake each one of the characters into reality are immediately followed by sympathetic moments that drag you back to that confusing age – a time where vivid imagination vs. reality and the subsequent confusion are heavily blurred. Technically, this film delivers a great soundtrack, seamless editing, and creative, but not distracting, camera work.
Along with this creepy story, we get an inside view of PoC families in Queens, which we all know is not usually the backdrop to most horror stories. People of colour are typically used as a plot device to drive white characters where in Let’s Play Dead Girl, they are just folks living their lives. It also drives home that teen girls from all parts of the world are subject to a lot of the same pressures and concerns as others, dispelling that racist myth of “inner city youth” as somehow genetically more apt to violence. Most serial killers are white men and this is based on a true story about white girls, y’all… Here, levels of isolation can be felt in Queens as well as small town Wisconsin and peer pressure ignites a world that seems to exist in a vacuum with serious implications.
In the spirit of Heavenly Creatures, Morán skillfully and eerily combines fantasy and reality, which is exactly what happened in this real life story. The distance horror lovers take comfort in when they leave the thearer or turn off their screen is a barrier that is shattered in this short and for that reason, I suspect the discomfort isn’t for everyone — but it’s perfect for me. Contemplating this interpretation of the story reminds us that horror is based in fears that are real. The Slender Man attempted murder is only one of many murders attempted by teen girls — most of which have indeed resulted in murder.