A Terrible Night had me exclaiming, “Holy shit,” when the giant bug appeared. Or when it started moving. I’m not sure if it’s always in the shot. I’m resisting the urge to go and check.
The short is short—a minute—and one of director Méliès single shot films. He appears in the film as well, a fellow with a distinct proboscis settling in for the night. Once he’s got himself tucked in, a gigantic bug starts crawling up the bed and then onto the wall. Méliès’s sleeper is prepared with a flyswatter of sorts, but then it turns out there might be other bugs around.
Night captures the very human terror of a bug interrupting sleep, exaggerating it with the bug’s size; the special effects are limited—you’re so busy watching Méliès scramble to get the flyswatter, the bug gets from bed to wall almost instantaneously—but the simplicity of the bug’s movement makes it all the worse. It’s very hard not to ascribe intention to the bug and its movement, a certain disturbing malice.
Méliès’s instinct with the makeup—the nose is obviously fake—is good too. He’s concentrating the viewer’s attention throughout the frame, both with moving and non-moving parts. It’s very cool stuff.
The only thing wrong with Terrible Night is it isn’t long enough. Méliès does such fine work in the first minute, you’d love to see what he could come up with in a second one.