Ben is painting one day along a street in London one day when he sees a mentally-disturbed man by the canal throwing a suitcase into the water. Strangely intrigued, Ben’s curiosity gets the better of him and he fishes the bag out of the oily water.
When he opens the bag, he discovers a small notebook of names, as well as a 15-foot-long snake inside. He discovers it is an African Rock Python, but animal services is unable to remove it right away. He attempts to rid himself of the snake, but it becomes clear that the animal has developed an attachment to Ben and isn’t going anywhere.
Ben becomes used to the snake’s presence, just as strange things begin happening in his apartment building: a neighbor’s dog goes missing, and other residents he shares his building (and more than a few conflicts with) disappear as well. Soon Ben realizes that the snake is much more than it seems, becoming a strange extension of his thoughts and will — and wants to guide him into a darker world than he ever anticipated.
Writer-director Spencer Young’s short horror film is a smart, gripping story about the will to power, the inner dark impulses we all struggling with, and the efforts we make to keep them from coming to surface.
Well-crafted from its cinematography to its eerie sound design, it painstakingly constructs a world, while its writing deftly lays down the elements of its central dilemma and mystery.
Both gritty and atmospheric, it excels in depicting a milieu of both decaying modernity and the ancient evil lurking underneath the cracked, degraded surfaces. The short has the desaturated, almost bleak look of a British urban thriller, portraying city spaces as either open and desolate or cramped, almost moist with intimacy and proximity — and ready to ripen with contagion.
The contagion here is not an epidemic, but rather a set of questionable disappearances, and the crowded apartment building with its long narrow hallways, cramped stairs and odd assortment of strange neighbors is an ideal playground for its latest reptilian inhabitant to wreak havoc. Actor Liam Boyle (from “Skins”), in a deft, sensitive performance of a loner in a city filled with many solitary souls, becomes the conduit through which the audience learns more about the snake — and about humankind’s capacity of evil and capability of corruption. By the time Ben catches up to the snake and understands his own relationship to it, the audience may wonder if he’s beginning to enjoy its power as well.
Narratively “Repent Now” feels like the first part of a longer feature work, especially with its almost cliffhanger-style ending. It doesn’t have the time to delve deep into its mythos of good or evil — or answers questions of where the snake came from or how it got its unique powers — but the storytelling carefully but surely builds its tension, pulling viewers in with excellent craft. By the end, we may be left wanting more, but its eeriness and evocation of evil in the modern world will linger — and we may never quite look at a snake in the same way again.