★★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Joe Burke
“Timely, topical, and terrific.” Well that’s what the Scariest Things Podcast would say if Variety came calling for a pull quote. Joe Burke’s (Four Dogs) brand spanking new horror short Desert Quarantine is a perfect reflection of a perfect reflection of society’s current spate of worry, hate, fear, and confusion.
Set in the remote recesses of the California desert, this horror short follows Jacob (Oliver Cooper — Mind Hunter, Project X) as he seeks refuge from a virus (possibly THE virus) in a bucolic compound. Burke establishes the tension created by the virus by using right-wing AM radio chatter as he follows Jacob out to the desert. As we’ve all come to learn viruses aren’t about washing your hands and playing it safe — they’re about the polarized dichotomy that exists between false liberties, personal responsibly, and the public health needs of the commons.
Once Jacob arrives he settles in to his virus-free home away from home. He checks in with his sister (Shelby Burke) who discloses that their father has fallen prey to the virus and that Jacob is desperately needed home in Ohio. Jacob plaintively explains that he’ll be home when he’s ready, but that time is not now. During their call Jacob and his sister hear wild caterwauling outside in the desert darkness. Upon closer examination Jacob discovers a bloodied human hand that’s been gnawed and gnarled. Jacob immediately does what we’ve all been repeatedly taught and compelled to do — WASH YOUR HANDS.
This isn’t just any virus, oh no. This virus may have taken quasi-human/monster form. It’s not messing around. Gloves won’t save you, nor will a mask, or even a well-timed bout of hand washing. This virus is ready to K-I-L-L, kill. While Burke’s horror pandemic ruminations fall in to action-flick madness at the end of the short, the construct he creates is a great one. Horror has always been, and will always be, the only genre willing to blindly and boldly tackle our nation’s woes and deficiencies. As we slide further in to uncertainty about the experimental nature of our democratic state, horror like Desert Quarantine can be that mental vaccine for your concerns and doubts.
Head on over to Vimeo and peep this wonderful little slice of pandemic horror!