Stare long enough at the opening frame of Samantha and you may find yourself wanting to venture into the forest. It’s dark and tangled and consuming, and simultaneously beautiful. Filled with wonder. Intrigue. Little specks of light that drift like dust across the consciousness. And like so many things, something deadly lurks amidst the beauty.

Samantha made its online premiere February 8th as a featured short on the horror Youtube channel ALTER, after an initial festival run that saw Josh Carley’s disturbing vision earn official selections at multiple film festivals and win “Best Supernatural Short” at the Atlanta Horror Film Fest. Samantha’s effectiveness as a brooding, creeping exploration into what torments a person’s recurring dreams isn’t achieved through splatters of gore and an adrenaline-induced chase through the woods–it’s built through color, sound, and a damn good post-production team.

Writer and director Josh Carley spoke with Fable House Productions about the collaborative creative elements that meshed together to create the visual sense of prolonged psychological anguish.

“I can’t say without spoiling it, but there’s a few shots in the forest that I think I think are the perfect blend of performance (again, can’t elaborate without spoiling), Matt Bell’s cinematography, Kolby’s (Kolby Kember) VFX work, and Bradley Greer’s color.

Matt, Kolby, and I spent a lot of time in pre-production working through how we could do it, and of course Matt and his team executed at a really high level on the day. Then Kolby and his team made it all come together in post. But Bradley came in with the final touches and really brought it to a whole new level. He understood the tone of the short and what we were trying to accomplish with the shots, and he brought horror, somberness, and beauty together in a way I didn’t even know was possible.”

Samantha short horror film

Bradley Greer’s color and Matt S. Bell’s cinematography in Samantha is like waking up to a fresh layer of frost on a clear wintry morning and then covering that noir frost with the heavy shadows of an eclipse for nine minutes. The protagonist is drenched in cold blues and distorted features, visual representations of a tormented consciousness. Kolby Kember, the VFX Supervisor of Crafty Apes (Midsommar, Stranger Things) pulls together all this dripping mood and manifests it with an apparition and a monster that you really wouldn’t want to meet on a Saturday hike.

You can watch Samantha here on ALTER, and it’s hard not to wonder how a ten-minute film can so effectively leave an imprinted mood. It’s the nuances–the soft drumming of the rain, the cold, isolated forest, the way the wood fire hungrily flickers against the heat in their eyes.

Carley lays down the framework for suspense with his storytelling and sparse, quick-escalating dialogue. But finishing the film and feeling like you don’t want to sleep tonight? Well, that’s all done in Post.