“Danger Word” is a short film based on horror authors Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due’s novel “Devil’s Wake”. A short story version appears in a collection of Due’s work Ghost Summer: Stories, but more on that next week.
I became a fan of Due’s when I first watched the Shudder documentary Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror. It took me forever to get around to reading one of her books, but I was absolutely chuffed when I learnt that she and her partner were involved with other screenwriting ventures.
The short, directed by Luchina Fisher, follows 13-year-old Kendra (Saoirse Scott) and her Grandpa Joe (Frankie Faison) as they traverse the rugged landscapes of a zombie apocalypse.
Grandpa Joe tries his best to toughen up the young Kendra, whose innocence was taken from her early due to things outside of their control. She had become particularly hardened after seeing the transformation of her mother into the undead.
After shooting practice, Grandpa Joe and Kendra go to see Mike and his sons, who they are hoping to trade with. But it doesn’t take long until both notice that something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, they are both too late and Grandpa Joe is bit by Mike. He tells Kendra to go north to Albany where she can get help.
Kendra eventually has to kill her grandfather, but leave him with dignity – and leaving the viewer knowing that everything he taught her will not go to waste.
It’s pretty impressive that within 20 minutes, you can establish such a strong relationship between two characters. The ending had me in tears and desperate to know what happened next to young Kendra. It’s a harrowing story of a little girl forced to grow up much faster than she should have to. But that reflects the reality of many children, with or without the apocalypse.
Some of the editing here is a bit confusing. I had to rewatch a bit when I couldn’t understand why Kendra had returned to the farm to kill her grandpa. At first, I thought I had missed a scene, but I think it was the girl reassessing leaving her grandfather to become a zombie. It was subtle, almost a little too subtle.
This short is quite a bit older than the rest of the films I’ve watched this year for Women in Horror Month, and I think you can tell. The cinematography isn’t the greatest. But that being said, it still managed to tell a powerful story in the framework of a traditional zombie tale.
You can watch “Danger World” on the director’s YouTube page. It’s a beautiful and creepy story full of wonderful Black talent.