"What does horror mean to you?" is the question posed in Conventional and Karen Gillan presents an unexpected and uncomfortable answer. The former Doctor Who star wrote, directed and starred in this short made for the 'Fun Size Horror' film project, and the personal touch is evident as the actress with nerd-friendly credits like Amy Pond and Guardians of the Galaxy's Nebula on her filmography uses the convention circuit as the venue for a more personal and psychological point of view on 'horror'.
Gillan plays Rachel Milligan, the struggling former star of schlock horror movie Axe Wound 2 (not even the original Axe Wound!) reduced to slumming it on the horror convention circuit to get by in lieu of any other career prospects. Now she struggles to even meet that drastically lowered bar, her Q and As are attended by dwindling, unenthusiastic audiences, her new photos go unsold. Anyone who has ever attended a con and had the uncomfortable feeling of seeing a non-visited table or heard con guests struggling to bullshit their way through answering a question will recognise what Gillan is conveying. With just under 9 minutes to tell this story Gillan makes good use of visuals as storytelling shorthand-Ms. Milligan's unnaturally bloated lips tell half her story for her-and she manages to present a very grounded concept with some stylised flair, for example the image of a stark room containing only the contrast of Milligan's lonely table and the ecstatic queue for the table of the younger, bustier star next to her, the only other table in the room. If horror is about getting into the audiences head and getting right to what makes them tick, then Conventional's aggressive portrayal of non-existent self esteem and the fear of irrelevance is the scariest thing Gillan has done, chomping on a light bulb notwithstanding. It might be described as depressing more than terrifying but honestly, what's more terrifying than depression?