Cabin Killer: A romantic getaway, an axe murderer, and a bloody good time


Cabin Killer, a short horror film that’s toured the festival circuit, packs a satisfying array of punches, axe chops, and poop jokes into a neat little package.

Cabin Killer is a little gem that makes you believe that movies are capable of telling a story again. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s difficult to decide on something to stream.

Tag-lines can be confusing. Actors can be unknown. Trailers can spoil the entire movie. Sure, you can watch 10 minutes of a film to see if you like it, but that can add up quick. It is hard to find compelling entertainment nowadays.

Clocking in at 10 minutes and 53 seconds, Cabin Killer gets you into the story and out of it just as fast. It won Best Super Short Film at this year’s Shriekfest and Best Comedy at the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase.

Cabin Killer is written and directed by Michael Rich (Ambulance, El Tio). It stars Chris Orlandi (Blackthorne) as Adam, Gabi van Horn (Relationship Goals) as Sherri, and Jose De Jesus Martinez (Kill Speed) as the Cabin Killer.

The story is simple. A couple goes to a remote cabin to work on their relationship and end up being stalked by a serial killer.

Instant Chemistry

Adam is an earnest dude who really wants his relationship with Sherri to work. He also seems to be a guy that makes a lot of mistakes.

These aren’t the cheating kind of mistakes. They’re the kind of mistakes that can add up and make your significant other consider if the irritation is worth it.

For example, Sherri had told Adam that she wanted to get away. So, he brought her to a remote cabin. It’s cozy and romantic. There’s also no food or working plumbing.

With a shady sigh of exasperation, Sherri explains that by getaway she meant a spa day.

Sherri is far from doom and gloom. She wants this relationship to work, as well.

She came on this getaway with Adam so there could be serious alone time for the couple to talk and work on things. Sherri appreciates the gesture.

Adam has realized that things aren’t going so well, so he makes an effort to fix them. That’s validating for Sherri and also gives her something solid to hold onto in the relationship.

There are a several warm moments where Sherri is exasperated and attracted to Adam at the same time. My favorite is when there’s a realization that the only form of entertainment or communication is a radio. Sherri is irked.

But when Adam picks it up and mentions he used one just like it when he was a kid, Sherri watches Adam with a warm, glowing smile.

Adam doesn’t use his temper as a shield to cover embarrassment. He owns the moment and tries to make the best of it. That’s a good quality.

I liked that Orlandi and van Horn held on to their characters here. I was happy that Rich allowed the moment to happen in the script and in the final cut. Forget exposition. Keep it simple and let the actors act.

Prime Real Estate

Dave Cortez (Never Say Nyet) was the cinematographer for Cabin Killer. This movie looked a lot better than some low budget features. I understand that budgets stretch a little longer when you only have to get 11 minutes on film. But, short film budgets tend to be smaller, as well.

The lighting evoked a horror movie mood. Nearby camp lamps and the stars were meant to serve as a lot, but not all, of the lighting sources. Yet, the color is vibrant.

I’m not a big fan of desaturation unless it’s necessary. For once, a couple goes to a cabin for a getaway and you can feel why the place might be romantic.

The actors are allowed to fill up the frame. This draws you into their performances. It affects the story. The film becomes more about Adam and Sherri’s relationship surviving the weekend both literally and metaphorically.

Also, the cabin has a reindeer head on the wall and a rocker on the porch. Do I think this ties it to the Evil Dead universe? No. Could it be? Sure, whatever. I think it has more to do with proper set dressing than anything else.

The cabin porches in Deliverance have rockers on them. Jon Voight’s character uses a bow and arrow and Daryl from The Walking Dead uses a crossbow. Is this a super secret cinematic universe that the Illuminati has been hiding since the 1970’s? No. Calm down, Internet.

The Cabin Killer

When Adam and Sherri have that adorable moment with the radio, the first news report they hear is about a serial killer who has been targeting people in remote cabins.

Adam admits he kind of knew about it. This is a prime example of the kind of mistake that drives Sherri away.

The Cabin Killer arrives shortly after. He reminded me of Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th Part II and Hooded Justice from Watchmen.

As I mentioned, I felt the short is about Adam and Sherri’s relationship. So, when they disregard the Cabin Killer and immediately start arguing, it was the most natural, logical thing that could happen.

I felt a little bad for our monster. This dude is a serial killer. He’s trying to display his power over his victims on his way to becoming something bigger. Except Adam and Sherri don’t have any time for that.

Van Horn is impressive here. I completely believed that she was exasperated with Adam and afraid for her own life at the same time.

When the killer tries to get his victims’ attention, there’s a meta moment. But, this isn’t a parody or dismissal of horror. It’s just a different way for Adam and Sherri to see and acknowledge the killer. They’re afraid, but they know they are their best chance of getting out of this alive.

The final resolution made me pump my fist. And I’m not a fist pumping guy.

Gone Too Soon

The story of Cabin Killer has a fairly definitive ending. In less than 11 minutes, the short worked in a fully formed relationship, a legit serial killer, and real terror mixed with comedy. The actors are great and have fun in their roles. The director gets out of their way and makes them look good.

Next. Bloody Ballet never gets on its feet. dark

Michael Rich is a good writer/director. I hope he gets the opportunity to direct a feature, soon. Hollywood is in need of his kind of talent.

Are you going to watch Cabin Killer? Do you watch a lot of horror shorts? Let’s discuss in the comments!