The Tell-Tale Heart (2020)

Director: McClain Lindquist
Cast: Sonny Grimsley, Teren Turner, James C. Morris, and Micah Olsen

Well over a century and a half after his death, Edgar Allan Poe’s works still endure – inspiring writers and filmmakers alike in adaptions and homages of his tales of horror. Their mileage varies wildly, but here with first-time filmmaker McClain Lindquist we get what in my mind is the best adaptation of the classic story The Tell Tale Heart I’ve ever seen (and readers, I have seen them all).

A synopsis of the story isn’t really necessary here right? This story was first published in 1843 after all, so let’s instead get to looking at this shockingly good short film.

Reimagined into modern times, whilst making the narrator (Sonny Grimsley, Blood and Oil 2015) decidedly out of that time adds a jarring side in-keeping with the original story’s descent into madness. Sonny’s turn as the narrator is perfectly pitched as he struggles to hold his composure and air of confidence through the questioning, and almost feels as though he was plucked out of the original story itself with his vocal mannerisms which is nicely nodded to in the opening moments. The cast here are all strong and play their parts with a realism that makes it feel less like an old horror story and more like something you’d watch on a true crime show, their seriousness adding to the tale of woe that plays out.

Visually I was blown away, The Tell Tale Heart is beautifully shot in 4K UHD and the set looks like it’s been plucked out of a big budget period piece – Poe himself would be pleased with the set I’m sure. Costume and make-up SFX have done a fantastic job, the face of the old man is wizened and disturbing without looking even a little bit fake which can be hard to achieve (Especially on a particularly young actor – usually it looks quite off when this is done) but they have absolutely cracked it here. There’s a definite noire-esque feel to the visuals that works with the snappy pacing of the story in a way that holds the viewers attention and drags you into the chaos on the screen which I loved. Gore-wise, yes this isn’t for the feint of heart, but its gore is in your face without being gratuitous which I always appreciate because gore for the sake of gore get’s dull fast, here they build to it and make you wait for that blood-soaked payoff.

As just mentioned, this has a brisk pacing that gives it punch, complemented by the dialogue and scenes that begin to increase in speed to ramp up the tension in every way possible. There is of course also the classic heartbeat sound synonymous with this story, but the score too builds and swells as the story and the madness reach their conclusion. Lindquist is among other things a musician which pays off in spades with this film as it is beautiful and creepy in equal parts, modern yet ethereal – honestly I need that score in my life to listen to whilst writing because it’s a thing of beauty.

So as you can probably tell, I adored this short film – it’s an impressively strong piece from a first-timer who took a brave choice in adapting one of Poe’s most famous works. Aiming high has paid off here, because it’s one of the best shorts I’ve seen in a while. The Tell Tale Heart is a slick, delightfully creepy, and beautifully made adaptation of a classic that deserves a place in any horror fan’s heart.

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you get a chance to see this don’t miss it, this is clearly the start of an epic horror career for Lindquist.

The Tell Tale Heart official trailer