Shot on a $100 budget, Gary Berger and Josh Mowatt‘s The Final Photograph is ridiculously effective in terms of how it plays out. Thanks to an omnipresent voiceover, the short could either be a confessional, or it could be the creepiest episode of The Moth ever broadcast. This is the second short Berger and Mowatt directed together, having previously worked together on the 2016 film, Servus de Infernum. Its lead, Katie Monroe, also makes an appearance in The Final Photograph
The film’s tagline — “What happens when a hobby becomes an obsession?” — is a very simple premise, which the directors roll out slowly, but the payoff is a pretty clever concept. To say much more would ruin the fun, but suffice it to say, it’s not anything like the viewer expects, and it’s even more effective for the way it’s achieved.
The shots of the narrator in his basement, typing away, have a disconcerting granular quality to them as if they were shot on a VHS camcorder. Really, any low-light shots look pretty degraded, weird, and switches, the perspective from documentary to something more akin to a snuff film.
The tone of the voiceover — performed by Berger himself — is unrepentant, and the quietly insistent synth score is right there behind it; lending, even more, thrust to this quietly disturbing little film. The fact that the narration’s the only voice heard in The Final Photograph is a nice touch, and one which really keeps the focus on the photographer, as well as avoiding blown-out or low-quality sound, a problem only too common problem in small productions such as these.
The score — also credited to Berger — is especially effective at turning brightly lit daytime scenes in various Oklahoma County towns seem ominous, rather than pedestrian. The Final Photograph may not be terrifying, but it’s certainly unsettling.
Berger and Mowatt even pull off a post-credits stinger that ties everything up quite nicely. Given the rate at which the two have been putting out shorts, and the fact that this one’s double the length of their first, one hopes that we’ll soon see a feature from this Oklahoma duo.
The short is currently attempting the festival circuit but you can check it on YouTube below!