(FANTASIA 2020) FILM REVIEW: CHANGELING conjures up a mother’s darkest fears in the flesh.


Director Faye Jackson’s horror short channels up a mother’s deepest fears about being a parent to an unsettling end.

Oftentimes, the best film shorts are the ones that successfully manage to get an idea or feeling across as simply as possible with an as little backstory. They creep on primal feelings and our nature as humans is to retreat or recoil from those things that instantly strike a fear response. Faye Jackson captures that in her short film CHANGELING. In CHANGELING, we follow a mother (Laura Belmont) who is struggling as a new parent. We see it in her eyes and demeanor. Her child cries incessantly, and her goal is just to find peace in those moments in between the tears as we see the weariness of her days reflected in her tired eyes. As her days continue, we start to see strange occurrences around her child. She changes her son’s diaper in a Mommy and Me class and it seems like the dirty diaper is filled with an oily portal instead of excrement and she sees a pulsing as if something is trying to come out. We see her at home, dozing off with her child when a rat scurries across her living room. As she recoils, she sees the rat disappear in a similar oily portal. Except, in this case, something that looks like a developing fetus comes out of the portal. As she lays on her bed with her child in a bassinet next to her, she wakes up abruptly and her child is missing. She finds it in the living room, seemingly having been attacked by a fox. As she clutches her child, she is shocked as the fox melts into another puddle. It is here that her greatest fear manifests, as an arm manifests out of the puddle. Another reaches out and we see it is a female torso pulling itself out of the portal. We cut to the mother’s horrified gaze as we realize the nude female figure manifesting itself out of the portal is an exact duplicate of the mother herself, as the mother begins to sink into a puddle of her own. The replacement mother, one that is rested and confident, comes and grasps her new child as what’s left of the old mother manifests as a fox that scurries out of the home as the new mother cradles her child lovingly.

There’s a lot going on in this short. At first glance, the short reminds me of the denouement of films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or last year’s A24 film A HOLE IN THE WORLD, where a changeling replaces a principal character and no one is the wiser. On a deeper level, the short could be seen as speaking to the idea of post-partum depression, and the pressure to connect with a child when that connection is not there. One can feel as if anyone could do a better job of parenting; hence the replacement mother. It could also be sene as speaking to having a parent’s darkest fears manifest, like an animal attacking a child, or feeling that one could be easily be replaced as a parent. Jackson juggles the vulnerability of the parent well with the darker horror aspect. The effect are practical and they are unsettling; channeling body horror with a cosmic bent. Belmont’s performance is understated but drives the film and she keeps you in the moment of the film. Overall, a great short and one that at 10 minutes does a lot with a little.