By Joseph Perry
April 17, 2021
Director McClain Lindquist takes Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart” and gives it a modern updating that is true to the source material but adds a new approach in his short film The Tell Tale Heart. The result is a fascinating character study of a narrator who speaks in 19th-century fashion while living in the present day, and who has something weighing heavily on his conscience.
The narrator (Sonny Grimsley) has murdered the long-ailing old man (James C. Morris) for whom he worked as a caretaker. The old man’s vulture-like eye drove the narrator to insanity and his act of murder, and as two police officers (Mikah Olson and Teren Turner) question the narrator about the old man’s whereabouts, putting ever-increasing pressure on him, the narrator does his best to come across as charming and full of civility, even though his affected air comes off as pretentious and offputting to one of the officers. Meanwhile, the narrator’s conscience slowly begins to crack.
Many potential viewers will be well familiar with Poe’s story but Lindquist’s film adaptation, which he cowrote with John Lindquist, serves up some fresh spins on the tale. The juxtaposition of the narrator’s speaking style, which is true to the era of Poe’s 1843 story, and the modern-day, no-nonsense dialogue of the police officers, is one such example.
McClain Lindquist’s vision for this adaptation combines the literary and the visceral, and he does a marvelous job seeing everything through. He heightens the suspense superbly, intersperses the interrogation scenes with flashbacks of what actually happened — including some intense, gory scenes involving sharp metal tools from the kitchen and the toolshed — and shows a keen eye for interesting framing and shots.
Grimsley carries the bulk of the short on his shoulders and performs splendidly. He must convey the arrogance of the smarter-than-everyone-else killer, the false charisma of a man trying to appear appealing as he endeavors to cover up his guilty actions, and the raving lunacy of a madman driven to his limits. Grimsley nails each of these elements in fine fashion.
Currently playing on the film festival circuit, The Tell Tale Heart’s presentation is as good — with crisp cinematography from Joseph Olivas and authentic-feeling set decoration from Lyndi Bone and Michael Frazier — as its story is strong. Both longtime Poe fans and those new to the classic tale will find plenty to celebrate with this short.
4 out of 5 stars
By Luke Barnes
February 28, 2021
Hey Everyone! I recently had the chance to sit down and chat with The Tell Tale Heart director McClain Lindquist, and we chatted all things horror- Poe, Hitchcock and of course the horror films of the 1970s and the 1980s. Be sure to check out my review before reading this, for further context- it is on the site now. I hope you enjoy!
Q: How important were practical effects to you with the Tell Tale Heart?
A: Practical effects were critical to our film. Using tangible special effect makeup was a decision we made right from the beginning. Our love of 1980s horror/Sci-Fi would be the impetus for this nostalgic approach. Respect for the modern masters would be the driving force in their inclusion. The late 70s and early 80s were the high-water mark of practical special effects and influenced us immensely. We harkened to the heady days of amazing films like American Werewolf, The Fly, Alien, The Thing, Howling, Evil Dead 2, and The Blob to achieve a realistic yet surreal tone. Chris Hanson tasked with the special effects department is a wizard and we were blessed to have his expertise and creativity involved from the earliest stages of preproduction.
Q: What is your favourite horror film and who are you influences?
A: I have such a long list! It’s so hard to narrow down to one film. But here are a few… The Exorcist, The Shining, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Psycho, Deep Red, The Beyond, Shock, Hellraiser, Texas Chainsaw, Halloween, Train to Busan, Night of the Living Dead, Jaws, REC, Descent, Funny Games, Carnival of Souls, The Skin I Live In, Cape Fear, Devils Backbone, Jacobs Ladder, Poltergeist, Babadook, The Ring, Let The Right One In, Carrie, Suspiria, The Others, 28 Days, Dead Alive, but if you had to pin me down and say one movie it’s… Evil Dead 2!
Q: Sequel ideas?
A: I have already parlayed or rewritten the (sequel) full length version into two distinct screenplays. I have no interest in doing a follow up film for The Tell Tale Heart. So I pilfered my own ideas and applied unused aspects from my original script to the new stories. Both of the scripts are also based on Edgar Allan Poe short stories. The Cask of Amontillado and The Black Cat. This trilogy of short films (including Tell Tale) would work splendidly within a movie anthology of Poe shorts. My full-length film fit perfectly amongst those two intense stories. So I just transplanted settings and characters to fit the narrative. It worked surprisingly well and came together very quickly and easily.
Q: How did you get into filmmaking?
A: I was tasked to write, direct and produce the music videos for my band Bass Mint Pros. We shot our first music video in beautiful Death Valley National Park. I took to the entire process of filmmaking very quickly and shortly thereafter I was shooting local commercials, musical/political spoofs and then web based serials. Being a cinephile and film buff, making a movie was the next logical progression.
Q: What are your thoughts on modern horror?
A: I have a deep love for the genre of horror. My favorite horror movies are the Universal Monster classics. As time passes sadly even the amazing genre films I grew up on are now considered outdated and vintage. Like all art forms it must change and grow, or it becomes stagnant and then dies. In my opinion modern horror is incredible. It’s the next logical step. I find this new wave of heady horror hounds to be most invigorating. It’s really refreshing to see the next batch of filmmakers having a sense of cinema and apply elements of art house to their films. Watching new perspectives has been eye opening. I want to see films from all cultures that represent a new and yet unseen viewpoint. I am also pleased with the style and bold experimentation in their vibrant films. I love the depth and emotional power of these trailblazers. Elevating the art form could never be (and should never be) seen as a negative element when it comes to the evolution of scary films around the world.
Q: Which do you value more when making a horror film, scares or atmosphere?
A: Atmosphere without a doubt! Ninety percent of horror is generated through atmospheric dread. The vast majority of atmosphere in cinema is created by gaffe or lighting. Pace, setting and tone are all vital to instil a spooky ambiance as well. As strange as it seems being “scared” is not critical. Everyone has different responses to fright. However I personally love jump scares and want the audience of my films to most definitely feel fear and become afraid. Fear is such a fascinating response to me. Fight or flight can be achieved without cheap scares if you carefully take the time to build up to the intense moments. Let the audience create the ambiance within themselves. It’s a litmus test of sorts. Don’t undercut the imagination and creativity of the viewer. They might just surprise you!
Q: Do you have any fun production stories?
A: Too many to count! Fun is the perfect word to encapsulate our production. If you aren’t having fun why even create art? We have three rules to our film productions. 1. BE SAFE! (No one should EVER get hurt making a movie) 2. Work hard! (Duh!) and 3. Have FUN! It’s hard to think of any element that wasn’t incredibly fun while making this movie. It was very upbeat and jovial on set. Lots of light-hearted inside jokes abound. I was usually the butt of everybody’s joke and was pranked endlessly each and every day on set. I got them all back, however. When we watched the trailer at the wrap party I purposely had the file slow down and go into buffering mode. It was hilarious to watch them all squirm. Revenge is dish best served… COLD!
Q: If you were to describe the production in one word what would it be?
Q: If you could meet and chat to any living or dead filmmaker who would it be?
A: Living – Martin Scorsese / Deceased – Alfred Hitchcock.
Q: If you won an Oscar who would you thank?
A: I would have the shortest speech in the history of the Oscars and beat Joe Pesci by one word. I would simply say… “Thanks!” However… I dedicated this film to my two beautiful daughters. I love them more than words could ever express, and they would be first and foremost on my mind.
Q: How important was Edgar Allan Poe’s influence over the film as a whole?
A: Edgar Allan Poe’s immense influence permeated throughout the entire process of the making of this film. From my brother nailing his voice in the dialogue to Janelle Corey’s costume design which we used Poe as the model. All the way down to Nikki BreedLove’s hair style which was styled in the vein of Edgar. Hell even Lyndi Bone’s set design was also inspired by the venerable Mr Poe. We wanted to respect him and his vast influence completely in our short film. This is his story. We are just tourists merely visiting his macabre world. I hope he would approve and appreciate our deference to his lasting legacy.
If you are interested, you can check out The Tell Tale Heart on the festival circuit right now! Or own in on VHS tape by ordering it from Telltalemovie.com
By Josh Staats
February 9, 2021
So in the line of reviewing movies, you get a certain privilege, which is people come to you with their projects to review them and talk about them, and I think that’s a great perk of the job. So on Twitter I got a DM about a short film that is using the original story, (plus some modern mixes of reality) to make a short film. They wanted me to review it and I got the green light for here, so I am super happy to be able to review this!
The Tell Tale Heart was a great short of horror and thrill. A great telling in a different medium of a great short story. The atmosphere and the feeling conveyed in this film was brilliant and really a great time to all who gets to view The Tell Tale Heart, as well as the directing done most excellent as well.
As I was saying The atmosphere is just intense, and breathtaking, even though most of it takes place in a singular area. The set, or room they are in is set very well and seems like it is a fairly good timepiece. I like the clothes, the period, the time of day that the movie is shot all lends to a unique and fun world that really draws you in, and makes you want to watch it over and over. There is one bit that I wasn’t super sure on, which is the three main people of the film are two white men in timepiece attire, while you have a female African American cop, with what looks to be modern equipment. The problem I have here is that it needs to choose a time period to adhere to, because while I do like the clothes, they feel weird with a cop from back then that is somehow not time appropriate, or the two en dress, more modern attire to fit with modern-day (still keep their clothes classy, just not so old-looking)
The feelings conveyed in the film are great. I had a thought about the film is about a sane man who killed a man, and is dealing with the repercussions of his evil deeds. He tries to convince himself as much as the detective and policewoman that he didn’t kill the Old Man. You feel excitement and despair, the thrill of pulling off the perfect murder. You even get to witness some crazy thoughts and feelings, which to me at the very least, makes sense, and is terrifying and great imagery to give you a deeper insight into the killer’s mind and psyche.
Directing of the film was also great, with shots being done well, capturing everything perfectly, the subtly in the backgrounds and what is apart of the background, transitions, lighting, everything is just near picturesque in the movie, and that raises the value of the movie, and brings the rewatchability of the movie to the next level.
I Loved the Tell Tale Heart and if you get the chance, give it a watch. What I’d like to see is an anthology of short films, where we have 3 short films made to make a feature-length film, and if they were all Edgar Allen Poe short stories, that’d be great, or maybe some other horror literary greats, I’d be so down to even buy the film. But, if that doesn’t happen, this is a great short film.
I give it a 4.5/5. Seriously, if you can, go watch this thing it was great!
Review can be found at: https://www.dudeiwatchedthat.com/2021/02/the-tell-tale-heart-2020-shorts-reviews.html
By Film Hooligans
February 5, 2021
Video can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nonyzkdvk4U&feature=youtu.be
By Señor Scary
February 2, 2021
In the last few moments of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Norman Bates sits quietly still, utterly insane, engaged in a deep inner monologue. He looks slyly at the camera and thinks to himself that he wouldn’t even harm a fly. Then a menacing, evil grin sprouts across his face. This deranged energy is where actor Sonny Grimsley starts his journey as the protagonist in the entertaining horror short film The Tell Tale Heart. He tears into this role like a man whose just been served a porterhouse steak, his teeth sinking into the meat of Edgar Allen Poe’s madness.
Based on Poe’s short story of the same name, the flowery prose depicts an arrogant narrator recounting his presumably clever cover up of a brutal murder. The film creates a dreamlike aesthetic with a disorienting timeline, swooping camera work, and a slurry of blood, guts and madness. It’s highly theatrical and chaotic, never letting the viewer gain a sense of equilibrium, much like Poe’s evocative story.
I would have preferred a modern setting over the stylized period setting which is incredibly challenging to pull off even for big budget productions but I admire the filmmaker’s pluck, and the committed cast. Film isn’t an easy medium but its easy to spot the dedication and passion of all those involved. These are fantastic results for an interdependently produced short film. Director McClain Lindquist, cast and crew had fun making this film and that feeling is crazy infectious.
Review can be found at: https://www.senorscary.com/2021/02/poes-tell-tale-short-gets-madness-right.html
By Niall Browne
January 19, 2021
McClain Lindquist’s adaptation of the great Edgar Allan Poe‘s The Tell Tale Heart is a wonderfully executed short film. A directorial debut for Lindquist, this Poe adaptation features some great imagery, special effects and set design.
The film follows the Narrator (Sonny Grimsley), who murders the old man (James C. Morris) in his care. He stashes the body beneath the floorboards of the home they share, but slowly descends into madness. This madness worsens when he’s interrogated by a pair of police officers (Teren Turner and Mikah Olsen).
For a first-timer, McClain Lindquist comes across as a great visual stylist and The Tell Tale Heart has some highly engaging visual concepts which really impress. He’s assisted by Joseph Oliva’s strong cinematography and Lyndi Bone’s excellent set design. For a short film, shot on a modest budget, this looks and feels much bigger – and the make-up effects are also very impressive. Credit must also go to editors Joel Petrie and Raymond Delmar as well as composer Joel Pack for their contributions.
You could argue that The Tell Tale Heart’s strong visuals over-take the performances in the film – and that’s valid. However, short films tend to be directing calling cards, not pieces which put the focus on performances.
For a short film which clocks-in at 20 minutes, The Tell Tale Heart makes for a strong calling card for director McClain Lindquist and his team. It’s an impressive movie, from a story by a great author and it deserves to be seen by fans of Edgar Allan Poe and horror aficionados. Seek it out.
By Cast Me to Hell
December 28, 2020
Review can be found at: https://open.spotify.com/show/5CEZa40f3W5TNJqDyhwxXl
By Jason Manriquez
November 22, 2020
McClain Lindquist’s short-film adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic, The Tell-Tale Heart, is a moody, well-photographed ode to that particular strain of gothic theatricality that marries old-world airs to a distinctively American strain of macabre depravity and violence. There is no skimping of blood in any ill-conceived attempt to make this more acceptable to the tea and crumpet circles. Nope. This is a horror short with a vision, and it stays true to that vision throughout its modest 22-minute runtime. The Narrator, played by Sonny Grimsley, remains the one fixed constant throughout a series of vignettes meant to tease and discombobulate the audience. Time and space itself are continually made questionable, with clocks running backward, and the various scenes shifting locales, never quite sure if what’s happening is taking place at the home of the Old Man (James C Morris), or at some police station, or who-knows-where. Officer Sharpe, played by the wonderfully assertive Mikah Olsen, and Detective Tucker, portrayed by Teren Turner, appear as archetypal law enforcement from divergent eras, further heightening the spatio-temporal confusion. Officer Sharpe looks as though she was culled from an 80’s police drama, while the Detective looks like someone pulled from a pulpy Mickey Spillane novel. The auteur’s commitment to Poe’s literary vernacular is clearly meant to create tension within the viewer habituated to a uniform vernacular. All the characters speak from a distinct place, almost as if they all existed in separate worlds. Regardless, the film does a great job drawing the viewer in for a closer look at the simmering surface of an unhinged mind.
Review can be found at: http://dropyourlinen.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-tell-tale-heart-2020.html
By Daniel King
November 21, 2020
This short, directed by McClain Lindquist, offers a new take on one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous stories.
I say a ‘new take’ although the film does follow the story quite closely; no, where Lindquist departs from most retellings is an ingenious merging of time and place.
The narrator (Sonny Grimsley) is clearly a 19th century character – dress, surroundings, manner of speech – but the detective (Teren Turner) who comes to question him is a classic mid-1940s hard-boiled cop.
Not only that but the policewoman (Mikah Olsen) who accompanies to detective is from the present day. Sometimes the interrogation takes place in the narrator’s 19th century abode, sometimes it takes place in the detective’s office.
It’s a great take on the original and shows that flair and imagination can revive a tale that’s as old as the hills, and in so doing puts the fear and horror right back in.
Review can be found at: https://bloody-flicks.co.uk/2020/11/21/the-tell-tale-heart-review
By Jon Dunning
November 15, 2020
Slick, clean, & polished. This short looks and feels more expensive than most films I’ve seen this year. The camera work, music, & lighting is done to the 9’s. Lindquist shows promise as he channels filmmakers like Nicolas Winding Refn, Edgar Wright, & mixes those creative juices with early 00’s horror directors like Steve Beck & William Malone.
Gore and scares are on point. Some seem a little over the top and overtly thematic but actually feel needed to update the over century old telling of this very familiar tale.
Makeup and practical effects hit about 80% of the time. But the scenes are moving at such a frantic pace, that your brain doesn’t have time to hate the obvious old man make-up that looks like it was pulled right off the screen from Bad Grandpa. Setting was a little wonky. I wished it either was a complete modern retelling with updated dialogue, costumes, and performances. Or go all in with the period piece. What we got instead was an uneven setting where only the residences of the house seemed like they were from the period. There are only four actors/characters total and three of them felt like they were pulled out of a separate time completely. Although perhaps, Lindquist is making a creative statement, that the source material is timeless hence displaying multiple timelines affected by Poe’s work. Without context one can’t be sure.
The performance from the Narrator was fun and charismatic, however it felt like it was meant for a stage play. But when he was murderous and/or in insane mod he really was excellent. Other performances were varying levels of good enough. Although special notes to Mikah Olsen (Officer Sharpe) that not only grounds the story in reality but acts as the audience POV as she is just as confused with the costumes and speak as we the viewers were in a modern setting.
You can tell that the director is a musician because the music really whisked you away at breakneck speed from one bloody set piece to the next. It felt like a music video from The Used at times. In a good way.
So should you watch it? At a lightning paced 22 min run time and if you are a fan of the source material or not, this has something for every horror fan. So I would say an emphatic yes.
This short has great bones and talented people in front and behind the camera. It seemed to be a passion project especially for Director McClain
Lindquist and I’m excited to see just what this madman brings to the butchers block next.
Review can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JunKQTbCljw&feature=youtu.be