I’ll be honest and say from the start that there isn’t a great deal of chance that many people will get to see To Fire You Come At Last. Not because it is a bad film…it isn’t, but because it has two big strikes against it; it is an small budget independent film and it is a short (45 minutes) neither of those tend to get a public showing nowadays. Pixar added a short before Elemental but they haven’t added a short since The Incredibles 2 back in 2018. I’ve said elsewhere how much I enjoyed the addition of a short feature and would love to see them return.
So what is To Fire You Come At Last about? To start with we’re in the 17th century and somewhere in the heart of rural England. To be honest though, in the sixteen hundreds, there wasn’t a lot of England that wasn’t rural but that’s by the by. This might sound odd but To Fire You Come At Last is shot in glorious black and white. By that I mean that the monochrome palette added to the drama of the night scenes and the stark boldness of the day light ones. I honestly think that a colour version would not be anywhere near as impressive.
It’s Not The Cough That Carries You Off…
We start with a Christopher Marlowe quote “It is a comfort to the wretched to have companions in misery” which very aptly sums up the atmosphere being established. There are some shots which place us firmly in the countryside until we settle on a clearing with two men and a coffin. The men are Squire Marlow (Mark Carlisle) and Holt (Harry Roebuck). They are waiting for some others to arrive to help them transport the coffin to a church which is a couple of hours away. Unfortunately, Holt points out that nightfall will be sooner than that and there is all manner of superstition and folklore that says carting coffins in the dark is not a good idea.
Help arrives in the form of Pike (Richard Rowden) and Ransley (James Swanton). These two, though, are the embodiment of “too little, too late” and so the Squire has to double the promised wages. After all, the person in the coffin is his son Aldis Marlow (Stephen Smith). And so our little group set off and, unsurprisingly, night descends and the talk turns to unsettling topics. The men argue, the men fall out, the men have seen better days! Obviously I can’t say much about what happens to who because of spoilers.
…It’s The Coffin They Carry You Off In
What I will say is that it runs to around the three quarters of an hour mark so you aren’t going to waste a lot of time if you get the opportunity to see it. I mean, I’ve spent longer than the over a latte and a cinnamon swirl in Starbucks! What you will get is some well acted, well shot, sinister entertainment. The story builds nicely and has some genuinely spooky moments. It may sound a bit pompous to say “not a frame is wasted” but that seems accurate to me. Others may have spun this out for anywhere between an hour and a half and two hours which would have made it sluggish.
Thanks to the sharp writing and directing of Sean Hogan and the skilful cinematography and editing of Paul Goodwin and Jim Hinson we have a concise, tight little horror story that is packed with atmosphere. As I’ve said before, I really wish short features got a wider audience. I also said that To Fire You Come At Last is the ideal length so what’s the solution? Perhaps teaming up with some other makers of short horrors to make an anthology? Whatever. I’ll just say that, if you get the chance, go and see To Fire You Come At Last.
Movie Grade: A-
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!