By Caden Douglas | Comedy
A woman is terrified of what's behind the red door at the end of a hallway...

A woman stands at the end of a long hallway, where a red door awaits. She doesn’t want to open the door and go inside, but her counselor encourages her to face her fears, find her courage and try. But she can’t quite do it.

After multiple struggles, she finally opens the red door and goes inside. But now she must face her biggest fear of all.

Written and directed by Douglas Caden, this short comedy takes exposure therapy to the next level, as one woman confronts her innermost phobias and, in doing so, finds a new dimension of joy and expression in life. The film is in many ways an exercise in minimalism, with its slender but focused narrative premise and its relative lack of dialogue. But its pared-down nature brings a sense of whimsy and an arch comic tone to the fore, making for an enjoyable and entertaining bit of visual candy.

Exposure therapy, of course, is often used by psychologists to treat people with anxiety disorders and phobias, exposing them to “doses” of their specific fears in situations with no real danger in them. The narrative takes this idea and runs with it, eschewing realism in favor of stylistic panache. The stark gleaming setting, bold contrasts of bright light with darker surroundings and the strategic pops of red have the feel of a kind of “wonderland,” where eccentricity and surrealism could converge. The elegantly studied camerawork also heightens the stylization, as does the buoyancy of its excellent Baroque-like classical score, which adds lightness and levity.

The lead performance by actor Virginia Reese, too, strikes a balance between different tones. As the woman confronting her deepest phobia, Reese is committed to the emotional reality of fear, though with an exaggeration right out of a screwball comedy, and some very childlike moments hint at their childhood origins. But soon she discovers there’s a delight to confronting them, setting loose an inner freedom that she takes to a whole new level once she gets out.

The central inner demon in “Pop,” though, is actually a delight in many ways, and it injects the film with not only a riot of color but fun and exuberance. It’s a testament to the power of visuals to give color and shape to pure emotion, and it’s simply charming and joyous to watch. Both stylish and silly, its ending has a looseness and wildness that is a marked contrast to the buttoned-up control and elegance of the character and craftsmanship at the beginning of the story. But though there are many moments of playful exaggeration, it does get at the feeling of liberation and possibility that awaits us when we look our fears in the eye, confront them head-on, and discover what that courage can bring to our lives.

You Might Also Like:


By Richard Prendergast | Drama
A single mother takes her family on a road trip. But it's to an unwanted destination.

Second Best

By Alyssa McClelland | Comedy
Twin sisters turn into rivals when one's gymnastics career steals the spotlight.

No More Wings

By Abraham Adeyemi | Drama
2 friends meet at their favorite fried chicken shop. But their lives have diverged.


By Gokalp Gonen | Animation
A man is trapped on a spaceship after his robot overseer finds every planet uninhabitable.

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...


By Hadley Hillel | Drama
A man's suicide attempt rips a hole in the ceiling. Then he befriends the boy upstairs.

Dig Your Own Grave

By Kirk Larsen | Comedy
A man is forced to dig his own grave in the desert. But the ground is hard.

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

More Than God

By Kev Cahill | Comedy
A devoted husband suspects his wife is cheating on him. Then he hides under the bed.

Welcome to Iron Knob

By Dave Wade | Comedy
A young boy accidentally shoots a stranger and the town tries to cover it up.


By Erika Davis-Marsh | Romance
A young dancer falls for a deaf guy, then tries to find her place in the world.

Toni With an I

By Marco Alessi | Drama
An awkward girl doesn't fit in at school. Then the Internet comes to save her.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.

Into the Silent Sea

By Andrej Landin | Sci-Fi
A Soviet cosmonaut who is stranded in space discovers a voice in the distance.

Infinite ft. George MacKay

By Connor O’Hara | Drama
A terminally-ill man has a plan to 'live on' and gets his friends to help.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.