If you are familiar with Native American legends (or, more recently, internet legend), you know of goat men. Goat men are shape shifting beasts that live in the forest. They are also known as wendigos and skinwalkers. There are many stories that I’ve read today involving these mythical beasts. Some are simple tales to introduce us to the concept (Goatman). Others try to humanize the monsters (Indian Skinwalker).
My absolute favorite story has to be Anansi’s Goatman though. It is a first person account of a group of teenagers and their encounter with a goatman. It’s one of the most popular creepy pastas out there, and it’s been brought to life in the short film Weirdo. With only a 25 minute runtime, it tries to capture what makes the story so creepy (isolation, not really knowing everybody around you, etc). It does a good job for the most part, but this adaptation has many hits and misses.
Weirdo follows a group of teenagers camping in the woods. After a few members of the group discover something creepy in the woods, the group retreats to a camper. Terrified, they listen as something outside begins to “play” with them. After making a pack of hot dogs, one of the teenagers asks for the extra hot dog (there are 11 people and this kid must have done the grocery shopping). After the chef points out that there are no hot dogs left, they suddenly realize there are now twelve people in the trailer. They are then terrorized for the next couple nights by this beast as it assumes the shape and assimilates to the group.
The original source material followed a young man visiting his cousin in Alabama. This boy didn’t know anybody he was with (except for his cousin), and his cousin didn’t know everybody camping with them. There were friends of friends in the group, and that completely shredded any safety these kids may have felt as a group. In Weirdo, most of the kids know each other from school. The only outsiders are the two boys introduced to the story, and it may have been a more effective choice to start and tell the story from one of their perspectives. In fact, it makes less sense that the goat man could assume a stranger’s shape and just “join” the group in this scenario.
Luckily, the film shines when the kids are the most terrified. The goat man doesn’t really require special effects. The goat man is movements and shadows in the dark. It’s people appearing and disappearing with no fanfare. He’s that odd look on somebody’s face that you just happen to catch. The scarier parts of this story shine through in the film despite the sometimes spotty acting.
The acting is ok, and these tend to be the calmest terrified kids I’ve ever seen in my life. Everybody tends to speak in one tone, and some of the conversation is just unnatural. However, I have to give props to the actress playing Keira. She nailed her scene outside the trailer.
It all comes to a head the final night at the trailer, and I must say…I liked it. Again, the film doesn’t call for many special effects but it could have benefitted greatly from them here. It was also a little dark, so a lot of the tension builds in your head. The finale of the story has always enthralled me, and the film is no different.
First time film maker Herbert Moran does well. He’s got a wonderful eye for what’s scary, and he’ll learn as he gets more experience. He’s definitely someone to watch in the future. Check out Weirdo.