“This clever premise made for a fascinating short film and the plot was sold to us by superb photography – those pull focus shots really earned their place here. Your close-ups of bus platform, bell coat-peg and so on really made us assume a normal school day was starting.
Of course, when we reflect a little the plot has a great hole in it: why was the school open with no other pupils present? And the MacGuffin of the schoolgirl not explaining “the secret” in one sentence is a slightly clumsy plot device – though one that has been hallowed by decades of horror and mystery films.
Your actors all do a very good job. They inject the necessary blend of 90% realistic and 10% strange. Your lead actor must have been tempted into going over the top sometimes but keep the performance true to the character. His stillness was seen by some of us as a fault, by others as a reflection of the horror around him which he subconsciously picks up on.
The sound design and use of music were also first-rate.
So you had a good cast and crew…
The setting worked well. In one sense it was purely functional. But there is a sense in which school buildings are mysterious and strange. it has to do with those areas which were off limits when we were pupils: staff rooms, prep rooms, boiler house, cellars, attics and so on.It is also because those buildings deal with humanity en masse not individuals or family groups. (It is also why a school coach crash is a tragedy which has no real parallel outside the world of formal education.) The rooms, corridors and spaces feel alien. There is a sense most of us had as pupils, that it was somewhere to mark time between childhood and adulthood – a form of limbo.
The appearance of Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black might have tipped us off that this tale involved ghosts. (Is it pushing things too far to suggest a link between the crashed carriage in the causeway there and the coach crash referred to in the film?)
The flowers on the fence are a final touch. This modern attempt at leaving roadside offerings, though sincerely intended, never looks quite right. It is sentiment without dignity. In the oddest way your hero is just as much stuck in the railings and away from the natural connection to the earth as the flowers are.
What I am saying is – the direction, mise-en-scene and sheer style were superb. With a stronger, more complex plot construction you would have an absolute winner.”

– Dave Watterson, FACI

“Good camerawork, with plenty of impact. The location worked very well in making the story believable. Convincing acting, that was especially good for the age group. Sound was well recorded and mixed expertly with appropriate music. Editting was good – well-paced, with all the right shots. The film was not too long. Overall, we found this to be an accomplished production that held our attention to the end and was only slightly marred by a few shortcomings.”

– Alan Atkinson, for the final judging panel: Alan Colegrave ARPS; Jan Watterson; Alan Atkinson FACI