Nicholas Marc Padley’s Short Horror Film “Gene” Suggests Big Things For This Emerging British Talent
A talented West Yorkshire-based production company, led by director Nicholas Marc Padley, is turning heads on the festival circuit with crowdfunded short horror film Gene. Top 10 Films editor Dan Stephens discovers what all the fuss is about.
“I’ve been a horror fan since I was in single figures,” says director Nicholas Marc Padley in his IndieGoGo appeal video. “I probably shouldn’t have been,” he adds wryly before revealing favourites like Evil Dead and Halloween, which are deemed by the censors as for “over 18s” only.
It’s therefore unsurprising that his venture into film, from a background in corporate media and music video, sees him tackle scary movie territory with Gene. Developed from an idea by actress Emma Wise, the short film is a darkly twisted tale of childhood-gone-wrong and the drastic measures one mother takes to rectify the perceived danger she believes is imminent.
There’s definitely elements of Halloween in the ten-minute short. There are fleeting moments of John Carpenter’s subtle, creeping camera, which finds a home in the stylish urban apartment of Gene’s protagonist, often creating an eerie stillness that’s complemented by the relentless drum of the electronic score reminiscent of Dario Argento’s oeuvre.
Padley’s confidence extends to the widescreen frame, another nod to the Halloween director, immersing the audience in the chill of the apartment’s shadows and drawing attention to smaller details featured in close-up (a child’s hand caressing bath water, a hunting blade poking at the guts of game in woodland, the pages of a journal depicting violent drawings).
It’s a successfully unsettling aesthetic thanks to its enigmatic qualities often leaving tantalising questions about a specific shot’s motivation. There’s a particularly appealing ambiguity about the mother’s collection of hair, for example, that pre-empts Gene’s equally open-ended closing scene.
This is all brought together by our focus, a troubled woman who discovers that her teenage son has violent tendencies on the cusp of emerging with destructive consequence. Emma Wise brings the mother to life with a vacancy in action and expression that suggests the monster of this piece is not clear-cut. You have to question the matriarch’s responsibility towards the environment that could create a monstrous child. Wise’s distant stares cloak a past that remains a mystery; a pain, a loss, even an anger.
It’s tantalising, immersive cinema made more appealing by Padley’s production value. He spent much of the investment made through IndieGoGo on tech to make his film look as good as possible. The use of the Red Scarlet 4K cinema camera means the film looks pleasingly cinematic but the investment in lighting and the capability to produce brilliant aerial photography gives Gene a big budget aesthetic that is complemented by the assembly of a talented crew.
The Leeds-based production company responsible for the film – Giant Leap Productions – might find its day-to-day activities populated by corporate talking heads and industry training videos but Gene has the potential to shift the balance of Padley’s niche towards more dramatic work. Indeed, the film has already been selected to screen at No Gloss International Film Festival and the British Horror Film Festival this year as well as Spooky Empire and Nightmares.
Padley’s eyes are set on developing a feature film in the horror genre. If Gene is anything to go on, fans of scary movies will surely have something to look forward to.