A group of workers a construction site indulges in some beer and a hazing ritual for the newest worker one night.
It begins promisingly with lots of laughs and cheers, though some workers take it much more seriously than others. But when it goes horribly wrong, events begin to spiral out of controls and all parties find themselves in an unexpected situation at the end of the evening.
Writer-director Kieran Wheeler’s dramatic short is both a fascinating portrait of the line between group bonding and groupthink, as well as an undeniably engrossing and entertaining thrill ride through a fast-moving plot and dynamic storytelling.
The idea of initiation as a rite of passage is both a long-standing story subject and a milestone for many cultures and groups, and though the story uses Australian construction workers as a backdrop, the portrayal of a scary, challenging ritual — and a group pushing it forward as a young hopeful confronts danger and fear — is easily recognized from many other archetypes around the world.
Many of these stories, of course, are powderkegs of conflict, often lit by an overzealous individual who has more invested in dominating the proceedings — and the newer initiate — than simple harmless fun. The ensemble cast in the film captures this group dynamic excellently, bringing to life a script marked by well-paced tension and character clashes that simmer underneath the surface until they boil up with aggression and rage.
These cross-currents are at odds, and when things go horribly awry and the group must decide to do the right thing or act in their own self-interests, it only gives rise to more conflict and sparks an unexpected chain of events that propel the film to a powerful finale.
What makes “Through the Haze” different from many other recent shorts treading similar thematic ground is its ability to weave compelling, engaging craftsmanship and thriller-level suspense into the fabric of the story. Shocks, twists and turns are nimbly integrated into the storytelling, captured with dynamic visuals and camerawork. It’s an undeniably fun ride, but it also may provoke viewers to question just how these intense situations and group psychologies can exploit our inner weaknesses and darknesses.