What is it about our home that allows us to let our guard down? It is the one place where we feel protected from the outside world; it’s impossible to imagine that we could ever become victims in the one place in which we feel the most secure. ‘Abasement,’ a horror short from John Washburn, looks at the fact that, when faced with the possibility of something sinister lurking inside our walls, we will rationalize away the danger in order to avoid having to face the fact that our home might not be as safe as we hoped.
This five-minute horror short focuses on a man who comes home late one night to find his wife lying in their bed. While attempting to converse with her, she coldly dismisses his attempts to tell her about his day.
Defeated from his wife’s lack of interest in his story, he begins to prepare for bed when he hears a crash coming from downstairs.
Convinced the culprit has to be the cat, he descends the basement stairs…and he learns that something has followed him home this night, something that lives in the dark and has lured him into its trap.
‘Abasement’ not only deals with the concept of a supernatural entity invading one’s home, it also looks at an even scarier possibility that many people face in their lives: the all too familiar realization that your life has not gone the way you predicted; the years have slipped by and you suddenly find yourself wondering how you ended up like this.
Horror Facts recently had the opportunity to catch up with ‘Abasement’ writer and director John Washburn to speak to him about his film.
Horror Facts: Having just watched ‘Abasement’, I have to wonder: are the creatures in the film based on the idea of shadow people? Or are they entirely something else?
John Washburn: I’ll confess that I wasn’t familiar with the mythos of shadow people when I made the film. (I’m of course now aware of them, but that tradition was not an influence, at least not consciously.) They came out of the idea that monsters are scarier the less you see of them. For me, too many movies linger a little long on the monster, sapping some of the power. I’ve always loved the first Alien movie, and to me it’s completely terrifying until you actually get a good look at the alien near the end. Or (keeping it ’70s themed) Jaws, which is so scary until you get a good look at it. How much scarier would Freddy or Michael Meyers or any of those guys be if you didn’t really get a look at them? (Or maybe they’re the right amount of scary…)
HF: Was the idea to base the film in the person’s home a nod to the fact that we become so complacent in our homes because we have this sense of security?
JW: Yeah. Our home should be this sanctuary, but for him it isn’t. He lives in the house, but he’s not really a part of what makes it a home, which is, of course, relationships. His wife’s disenchantment is kind of brutal. It’s a kind of small detail, but if you look closely, she’s fallen asleep reading “Three Women” by Lisa Taddeo which is about (more or less) women’s sexual exploration, and the implication here is that he’s probably not figuring into that. There’s also probably something about the idea of twins or pairs–there are two monsters and while we only see one of his kids, he’s sleeping in a bunk bed, so presumably there’s another kid in the other bunk. Maybe the shadows are the id of his children or something?
HF: I felt like that was illustrated by the fact he just rationalized that the culprit had to be the cat and never once questioned that the source could be a home invader.
JW: Exactly. Don’t we all justify whatever it is we don’t want to deal with with a simpler explanation?
HF: Was that your intention: to base it in his home to show that evil is everywhere and that not even your own home is safe? Or, what was the motivation behind having these creatures target this one specific individual and follow him home?
JW: It’s a bit iterative, but I knew I wanted to do this portrait of a washed up guy who gets consumed by his lack of control and agency. I kind of wish I was the kind of writer who could just do a normal drama exploring human themes or whatever, but I’m not there, at least yet, so I needed a creepy device to upend his reality and the shadow creatures came to the rescue (mine, I suppose, not his). So the home invasion idea probably followed the character idea. The emotional center of the film for me is when he’s in the bathroom staring down the sad, luckless, middle-aged chump looking back at him in the mirror. Sam, who plays the guy, is completely fearless and was ruthless about inhabiting that. When we were talking about the role, he made a joke that there’s literally nothing sadder than a middle-aged dude in tighty whiteys. And it’s true. I think the sense of vulnerability he has, which is so critical to the story, would not be possible anywhere else.
While watching ‘Abasement’ it’s also important to pay attention to the use of color and light in each scene. The film illustrates how the things he craves most in life, his child, attention from his wife, are all bathed in warm light, but unfortunately for him, he keeps getting drawn away from the light and into the darkness.
‘Abasement’ proves that horror is not just about a monster; it is also about the challenges of life. Sometimes, nothing can be scarier than waking up one morning and asking yourself how you ended up here.
Be sure to visit director John Washburn’s official website to learn more about ‘Abasement’ and John’s other film ‘The Dead Drop’. Which tells the story of a precocious kid who, after stumbling upon a mysterious coded message finds themselves a pawn in a game of espionage cat and mouse.
And don’t forget the next time you hear a noise in the night, whatever you do, don’t go into the dark to investigate because that’s just what the creature hiding in the shadows wants you to do.