Fantasia 2020: Astrid Thorvaldsen’s Who Goes There? Packs a Lot of Dread Into A Small Package

There’s been so much amazing feature-length stuff at Fantasia this year that I’ve had to do some catching up on the festival’s short film selection. Even more so than other years, it seems like this year’s slate of Fantasia’s short films is a place where big risks are being taken and some of the most promising genre filmmaking is being nurtured. One of the more technically impressive and, in my opinion, scariest of these little terrors is Astrid Thorvaldsen’s Who Goes There?

It’s Minnesota, 1880. A weary man (Liam McMahon) sits alone by a fire, surrounded by darkness. He recoils at every sound coming from the inky blackness around him, drawing closer and closer until he is overtaken.

The man, an outsider, turns up on an isolated farm, where two women named Ingrid (Nina Yndis) and Liv (Siri Meland) care for their ailing sister Ada (Rikke Haughem), who coughs violently. Ingrid rushes to Ada’s side while Liv keeps her distance, afraid of being infected by her sister’s disease. But does the outsider have a cure? And can he be trusted?

Who Goes There? was shortlisted for a Student BAFTA Award this year, and its precise execution is a good reason why. The prairie setting is painstakingly and authentically rendered, the feeling of isolation and dread bleeding through in every shot. Yndis anchors the film with a quiet intensity, and McMahon’s performance provides a kind of inscrutable mystery. In just a short running time, Thorvaldsen has brought something special to life in Who Goes There? and proves that she and the whole team behind this short film, are talents to watch in the future.

Astrid Thorvaldsen’s Who Goes There? played as part of Fantasia 2020’s Small Gauge Trauma short film showcase

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