Watch Over Me

By Nir Paniry | Horror
A mother and son stop traveling for the night. But a threat may tear them apart.

Luisa is traveling through the night with her teenage son, Miguel. Miguel is withdrawn and seemingly depressed, and Luisa is worried for him.

They make a stop for some rest, hoping for a peaceful respite from the silent tension. But instead, Miguel acts out, leading to a crisis point, and disappears. Luisa goes in pursuit of her son, walking into a life-threatening situation for both of them.

Directed by Nir Paniry from a script co-written with Seth Boston, this short horror film is a portrait of a mother and son at a crucial juncture, in both the young man's journey into adulthood and in their relationship with one another. The starting point is one of mystery, with a moody and evocative opening of their pair traveling in the night. Luisa is trying to care for Miguel, but the teenager is unresponsive, withdrawn, and even angry. He's also in pain, but wants to be left alone -- but he's also angry to the point of violence.

What unfolds after this crisis is a recalibration of their relationship, as well as a reveal of just what Miguel is going through. The film also unfurls a full unfolding of the film's horror genre bona-fides, with suspense-filled storytelling, lurid and dark cinematography and a richly dissonant score. The considerable craftsmanship is engaging, and as Luisa continues to pursue her son, we also worry she may be sacrificing her life in the process.

But the heart of the story is the familial one. As a mother, Luisa reaches out to her distressed son, worried as he pulls farther and farther away from her. Actor Elena Rojas offers less a performance than a wholesale embodiment of maternal care and protectiveness, with a fierce loyalty that transcends any fear of what her son has turned into. Instead, her steadfast commitment to her son carries her into her confrontation with Miguel, one both moving in its unwavering love and suspenseful in her vulnerability.

Engaging and compelling both as a horror short and as a family story, "Watch Over Me" layers the story of a mother and son going through a shift over the long, storied vampire mythos. Here, the idea of a creature could stand for the opening of new appetites, or even the onset of a debilitating condition. As seen in this context, Miguel's anguish and fear are recognizable and understandable. But those overwhelming emotions are eased with a caring parent's understanding, helping him feel less alone and loved, no matter who or what he is.

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