ShortList 2020: How a 'Creepy' A Cappella Group Inspired the Dark Comedy 'The Devil's Harmony' (Video)

Dylan Holmes Williams’ film follows a bullied teenage girl who leads an a cappella club to seek revenge on her schoolmates

A “creepy” a cappella group at Dylan Holmes Williams’ university led the filmmaker to make a dark comedy short titled “The Devil’s Harmony,” about a bullied teenage girl who uses her music group to get revenge on her fellow classmates.

“I had the original idea because I was making a music video for an a cappella club and I realized how incredibly creepy they are, and I realized that that could be a starting point for a high school horror short,” Williams, one of the finalists in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival, told TheWrap. “Some of them have seen it, one of them is now a director, and he said it’s a very accurate description of what it’s like to be in an a cappella group. I worked with my co-writer Jess O’Kane on fleshing out a story from there and I wanted to do a dark comic, post modern high school film that leans into genre tropes of those films and try to subvert them and twist them in a peculiar, unsettling way.”

He said he looked at films like “Carrie,” “Brick,” “Donnie Dark’ and “Elephant” to really inform the tone and aesthetics of the film. Also, Williams is a fan of Yorgos Lanthimos, so he also drew inspiration from “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

He first got the idea for the film in 2014 and it then slowly evolved over the next three to four years. They shot the film in early 2019 over a five-day period.

He said one specific challenge he faced during the production of the short was that they had 90 people on set on one day, which is a lot for a small indie, low-budget short film.

“It was crazy for a short film — we had the cast, crew, and about 30 school kids and their supervisors, and there were moments when there was a horrible whirlwind, but at the same time we were getting content and rushes that we were excited by,” he explained.

Overall, he wanted to make a short film that showed how difficult it is sometimes for people from different social groups to connect, especially teenagers, and for them to cross over social barriers.

The short film won the Jury Prize for International Fiction at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Best British Short at the British Independent Film Awards 2019.

“The Devil’s Harmony” is Williams’ second short, after “Stilts.”

Watch the short above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at and vote from Aug. 6-19.

17 Horror Movies Set in Broad Daylight, From 'Texas Chainsaw Massacre' to 'A Quiet Place Part II'

  • Many iconic horror films lay their jump scares like mines behind dark corners, but there is also a subgenre of horror going back to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” that basks its characters in the blazing sun.

    Are you afraid of the dark? It doesn’t matter, because these movies below are proof that nightmares can thrive even during daylight hours.

  • “The Birds” (1952) 

    Alfred Hitchcock takes the everyday fear of being attacked in the street by city pigeons to the next level, having what feels like every bird in the city of San Francisco attack humans without warning. What adds to the horror is that the birds attack when people are most on the move; one scene depicts a flock of crows attacking a group of school children. “The Birds” stars Tippi Hedren as the lead Melanie Daniels, with Rod Taylor starring alongside as criminal defense attorney Mitch Brenner.

  • “The Wicker Man” (1973, 2006) 

    “The Wicker Man” is similar to “Midsommar” in that foreigners — in this case police sergeant Neil Howie — travels to a remote location where villagers follow an ancient pagan religion. Howie (Edward Woodward) is quickly entangled in the village’s May Day celebrations, where he discovers the villagers are going to use the missing child as a sacrifice. Nicolas Cage starred as the lead in the 2006 American remake.

  • “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) 

    Sally (Marilyn Burns), her three friends and father Franklin are attacked by the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) when their car runs out of gas and have nowhere to go. Sally is put in a race against the dwindling sunlight as she does everything she can to escape.

  • “Jaws” (1975) 

    During the opening scene, we are introduced to Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie), who decides to take a dip in the ocean after leaving a beach party. The John Williams score starts to swell when Chrissie suddenly feels something pulling at her from underneath. The terrorizing shark, even though it was shown only briefly during the actual movie, left audiences fearful of ever going back into the ocean. ““When you go out into the water, there’s this idea you’re incredibly vulnerable,” a clinical psychologist told the New York Post in 2015. “Literally anything can kind of happen. We’re built to kind of fear that, we’re built to fear the unknown.”

  • “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977, 2006) 

    A family’s trip from Ohio to Los Angeles goes awry when their truck explodes in the Nevada desert. They soon realize they’re surrounded by a clan of cannibals lurking in the hills. “The Hills Have Eyes” director Wes Craven shot the film in the New Mexico desert. The 2006 remake was shot in Morocco.

  • “Dawn of the Dead” (1978, 2004) 

    A zombie uprising leads a group of human survivors to camp out in a shopping mall. Why are the zombies drawn to the mall? The movie explains to us that it’s where the humans were used to being when they were alive.

  • “Predator” (1987) 

    Arnold Schwarzenegger leads a special forces rescue team on a mission to save U.S. officials captured by the Soviets.  The story plays out much like a cold-war action film, except for the fact that their foes aren’t only the Soviets, but also an alien species armed with advanced hunting weapons and the power of invisibility. 

  • “Tremors” (1990) 

    Valentine (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) try to save a small town from carnivorous “megaworms” in this early ’90s creature feature, much of it taking place under the arid heat of the Nevada sun.

  • “Anaconda” (1997) 

    Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and Owen Wilson. Sounds like a great group to go on an exotic trip with, except when they’re documentary film crew traversing the dangerous Amazon in “Anaconda.” The crew is taken hostage by a hunter (Jon Voight), who forces them to help him capture a monstrous snake.

  • “Lake Placid” (1999) 

    A crew investigates the disappearance of a scuba diver off the coast of Maine to find that dwelling below is a gigantic saltwater crocodile. The movie stars Brendan Gleeson as Sheriff Hank Keough. The actor also appears in other entries on this list, including “28 Days Later” and “The Village.”

  • “The Ring” (2002) 

    A newspaper reporter Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) investigates why people are dying seven days after watching a cursed videotape in this remake of a Japanese horror film of the same name. Similar to other horror films that followed “The Ring,” the film emphasizes the green and blue colors in the frame, adding to its eeriness whether day or night.

  • “Ju-On: The Grudge” (2002) 

    A Japanese social worker is taking care of an ill mother when she realizes the house she’s working in is cursed from a murder that took place in that very home. The vengeful supernatural force takes the shape of a young woman and boy with pale blue skin.

  • “28 Days Later” (2003) 

    Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma just to discover that London has been decimated by a virus, leading those who are infected to turn into rabid zombies. A friendly tip: Just like when trying the “Hot Ones” challenge, don’t let any of it get in your eyes. 

  • “The Village” (2004) 

    Bryce Dallas Howard, Joaquin Phoenix and Sigourney Weaver star as members of a small countryside community that fear a predator outside of their village is set to attack them. 

  • “A Quiet Place” (2018) 

    Lee (John Krasinski), Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and their kids are forced to live a life of silence when blind aliens with armored skin invade Earth, attacking anything that makes the slightest sound.

  • “Midsommar” (2019) 

    In Ari Aster’s horror flick, four American tourists go on a trip to a remote commune in Sweden to immerse themselves in a festival during the summer solstice or “midnight sun,” a period of time when it’s light out almost exclusively. And then things get really trippy. 

  • “A Quiet Place Part II” (2020) 

    Emily Blunt and her children set out from their farm and encounter more of the sound-sensitive aliens that terrorized them in the first movie — with more broad-daylight attacks that are every bit as creepy.

Movies like “Jaws,” “The Birds” and “The Hills Have Eyes” prove you don’t need to be in the dark to be horrified

Many iconic horror films lay their jump scares like mines behind dark corners, but there is also a subgenre of horror going back to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” that basks its characters in the blazing sun.

Are you afraid of the dark? It doesn’t matter, because these movies below are proof that nightmares can thrive even during daylight hours.

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