While Bella Ramsey has been on most people’s radars since portraying the baby badass Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones, this genderqueer genius has been the talk of the town lately due to their run as Ellie in The Last of Us. This buzz has led to lesbian horror short film Requiem (2021) being uploaded (or possibly re-uploaded) to YouTube for our viewing pleasure.
Set in England, 1605, Requiem is about a minister’s daughter, Evelyn, played by Bella Ramsey, and her clandestine love for the milkmaid, Mary, played by Safia Oakley-Green (who has played queer before in the show Extraordinary.)
It’s only 24 minutes, and it’s a snapshot of what it may have been like to be queer and in love in a time of witch trials. The short opens with Evelyn screaming while a pyre burns, reminding us of how alarmingly good Bella is at portraying distress; it hurts my feelings every time, whether it’s pre-Enlightenment or post-apocalyptic.
This story has all the makings of a classic queer story set in a time where queerness is punished: furtive glances, stolen moments, pinky touching. Because of her love for Mary, Evelyn tries to delay her inevitable arranged marriage by lying to her father about having gotten her period, turning away from her betrothed in her wedding bed, sneaking out to meet Mary in the middle of the night. Evelyn and Mary managed to establish a lot of chemistry in a short amount of time, and one perk of the shorter format is that we don’t have to suffer the longing before finding out if we’re imagining it or not.
The short has some moments I really enjoyed: the aforementioned pinky touch (I’m a sucker for the iconic gay pinky touch), the minister asking Evelyn what she thinks of a boy who was asking after her and her responding, “I think not of him,” and one particular moment toward the end I won’t spoil. It is beautifully acted by both Ramsey and Oakley-Green, and I take comfort in knowing it was created by queer people including but not limited to non-binary director Em J. Gilbertson and queer writer Laura Jayne Tunbridge.
I’ll admit, it did feel…familiar. Maybe it’s because I grew up very close to Salem, Massachusetts, so I’ve been inundated by tales of witch trials my entire life, and as someone fascinated by the concept of witchcraft (old and new) and the horrific history of witch hunts, I have, in the past, sought out this exact story before, of which there are many examples. Maybe these stories aren’t as prevalent in places that aren’t New England, so maybe you haven’t seen this story before. But if you have, don’t go into this expecting anything brand spankin’ new. It’s basically a bite-size version of Fear Street: 1666, which I do mean as a compliment.
Though I hesitate to officially call this “horror” the way Fear Street is vs just regular historical fiction drama. Having seen Alter shorts before, I was surprised this short ended up being a little…basic. I kept expecting some kind of twist; for someone to walk off the pyre after having been burned, a reveal that actually it was 2025 not 1605, anything. While well-done all around, it didn’t scream “horror” the way a lot of other Alter pieces do. It’s more subtle in its sci-fi implications, more subdued overall. If you watch other Alter shorts, the villains are typically more abstract, or the stories overall more infused with surrealism.
For example, Stucco starring The L Word‘s Papi is about a girl who has nightmares about making out with her wall, Snake Dick starring personal fave Poppy Drayton is about what it says on the tin, and The Smiling Man features something that almost became my sleep paralysis demon. All the ones I’ve seen definitely take a turn for the delightfully absurd at one point or another…but not Requiem. There’s a mild suggestion of surrealism, but it’s subtle and open to interpretation. But maybe the thing that’s scary about this story is how NOT absurd it is; maybe it’s just saying that cis straight white men ARE the scariest and most threatening thing to our existence as queer people, and it’s been that way for centuries.
With a runtime under 25 minutes, and phenomenal acting from Bella Ramsey, I would say it’s definitely worth your time. It’s wild to go from watching her as fierce and fiery Ellie in TLOU to a meek and nervous Evelyn, but it just goes to show the vast amounts of talent Bella possesses.
Check it out for yourself then come back here to discuss in the comments!