Share house (n): a rental property housing four or more unrelated persons; illegal in Southampton and East Hampton towns.
Andrew, Summer, Sarah and Alicia are cooped up in Manhattan, craving a respite from the city heat and its fast heartbeat. Fed up, they pack their bags and get out of town—Hamptons bound.
Once in Montauk, they stop for drinks at 668 The Gigshack in Montauk and pick up a cute bartender, Lizzy—who catches Andrew’s eye—and continue to their four-bedroom vacation pad.
It’s a classic Hamptons story. Until the next morning.
Lizzy has disappeared. Then, Sarah goes for a run and never comes back. And when Alicia falls asleep in the hammock, she doesn’t wake up.
With just two vacationers left, Summer is scared for her life. Andrew could be killing off the girls. Or it could all be in her head.
This is “Share House,” the newest short film from writer-director Chris Modoono that turns psychological horror on its head by capitalizing on what the Hamptons do best. The East End’s famed light and untouched nature play compelling roles.
Before the East End feels peaceful, Mr. Modoono said, it feels weird.
“The traditional thing is, the lights go out, someone disappears, it’s nighttime, something’s scratching at the window,” the East Hampton part-timer said last week during a telephone interview. “It’s scarier and even more disconcerting when you’re watching it happen in broad daylight.”
Mr. Modoono and his modest entourage—four crew members, including himself, and five actors—were exceptionally lucky during their 2½-day shoot from August 5 to 7, he said. They snagged nothing but sunny days while shooting at Lazy Point and Napeague Beach in Amagansett, on the bluffs at Camp Hero in Montauk and inside the director’s home in East Hampton.
The Manhattan-based director arrived familiar with the area. He had vacationed in the Hamptons until age 12—formative years that developed his passion for film—before his family moved to Boston.
He grew up in the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” era, he said, and often found himself impersonating the sharp-witted archaeologist by wearing a worn-out leather jacket while brandishing his dog’s leash as a whip.
Movies were magic to the young boy, and as he grew older, he was nervous to dip behind the silver screen.
“I was worried when I saw how the sausage was made, when I lifted the curtain on it, it would ruin it somehow,” he said. “But I remember, I’d watch a movie on Friday night on VHS with my family and then wake up very early Saturday morning so I could watch it again. I wanted people to do that with the stuff I was doing. I thought there would be nothing cooler than to be on the other side of that.”
With two successful short films—“12 Floors Up” and “Teacher of the Year”—under his belt, Mr. Modoono landed a spot on the faculty of Stonestreet Studios, an advanced drama conservatory of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, four years ago. He hasn’t stopped writing since.
This past June, he took an alternative approach to screenwriting with “Share House.” Instead of writing first and then finding actors who fit the bill, he did the opposite. He cast five students—Dominique Roberts, Eli Walker, Carlotta Summers, Stacey L. Oliver and George Georgiadis—and wrote characters that fit their ranges, though not necessarily their personalities.
Mr. Georgiadis does not identify with Andrew, he said. The character comes off as arrogant and full of himself—though he means no harm by it, the actor said.
“Granted, Andrew is not totally me,” he explained last week in an email exchange. “What makes Andrew so interesting is that he is both the comedic relief and the darkest part of this movie, which was interesting to play. Usually, I am given one of those parts—either the comedic sidekick or the dark, twisted villain. But this role required me to blend the two together.”
The short film, which Mr. Modoono anticipates will run between 12 and 14 minutes once edited this fall, also plays with the idea of genre as a whole, Mr. Georgiadis said. While the piece is classified as a thriller, it includes heavy doses of comedy and no violence, noted Ms. Roberts, who portrays Summer.
“It is much more psychologically provocative than physically,” she wrote last week during an email interview. “I think the film is extremely interesting because the audience will never really know what happened, why, or if it’s all in Summer’s head.”
It’s a decision the audience will have to make, Mr. Georgiadis said.
“One of the first questions Chris and I had to discuss was whether or not I was really killing all these girls,” he said. “The movie is a new twist on horror. It’s very vague. It’s not going to tell you, ‘This is the murder’ or if people are actually even dying. A choice was definitely made, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets. See the movie, make the choice.”