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Photo by Edward Brown

After performing in dozens of plays, Katreeva Phillips has shifted her focus toward writing and directing films. She graciously let the Weekly premiere her most recent short film, Henry, which we discussed over ciders at newly opened Locust Cider on South Main Street.

She complimented the low-key vibe of the cidery as we tossed back the five short pours on our flight. Honey Pear, she said, was sweet like a Riesling while the Vanilla reminded her of ice cream. Her top picks that night were: Dark Cherry, New England Amber, and Mojito.

Phillips’ newest release follows the homelife of a middle-aged man named Henry (actor Francis Henry) who suffers from extreme agoraphobia. The film’s co-star is an increasingly violent spirit whose very existence is sometimes called into question, given Henry’s often less than lucid state of mind. The 15-minute film, co-written with Nicholas Zebrun, begs many questions that are largely left unanswered. (Warning: There are a few spoilers below, so you may want to watch the film first.)

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Phillips, who describes horror flicks as “charming,” has immersed herself in the long and bloody cinematic history of scary movies.

“Some of the charm for me is how bad they can be,” she said. “The process of finding something terrifying is more [challenging] than I knew.”

Working with director of photography Clint Howard, Phillips said she wanted a bleak cinematic quality to her film that was “bereft of any visual depth.” The idea, she said, was to draw attention to the circumstances within the plot and away from the aesthetics of how it was shot.

Her aim as a director and screenwriter is to achieve a “good arc,” she said.

“Character development is part of the story,” she said. Viewers “have to grow a relationship with characters. That makes it that much more terrifying [when you are emotionally connected] to someone going through something so horrific. Another [aspect of good film making] is to convey stories not just through dialog but through the visual aspects.”

Toward the end of the film, Henry almost escapes his home in an attempt to flee the violent ghost. He abruptly turns around and stays inside, even as a strong wind whipped up by the spirit tries to push him out. Why does he stay?

“Because he’s being forced to go outside,” Phillips said. “He was willingly opening the door. It’s his choice. He definitely wants to remain independent. Maybe that’s his character flaw.”

Phillips said great films, and art in general, spur discussions. The inner thoughts of Henry and the true nature of the spirit are all up for debate. Henry demonstrates that Phillips is a director who is OK with ambiguity. When she was eight or nine, she said, her first insight into the power of unanswered questions came while watching an episode of Roseanne. When the peculiar choices of two of the main characters were never exclaimed at the show’s conclusion, Phillips asked her mother why.

“Sometimes things don’t have an explanation,” her mom said. “It’s OK if things aren’t resolved.”

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On Tap this Week:

Premiere of Henry. November 4 (9 and 9:30pm) at Ye Olde Bull and Bush From Phillips: Come see the first screening of Katreeva Phillips’ first short film at her home bar! It’s a public event, so bring whoever you’d like and any food you’d like to eat! Let’s have some drinks and celebrate! For more information, visit the event page.

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