The Terror of Student Debt, in B-Movie Form

Ever get that tingly feeling that you’re being followed? Not by a turnip-wielding serial bludgeoner or an animated rocking horse—because those are just this reporter’s own personal nightmares—but by the specter of your student-loan payments? Then The Red, a new short film released online last week, is for you.

Borderline Films, the partnership behind the award-winning thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene, directed The Red. All the classic tropes are in place: There’s a shivering, defenseless young woman, misbehaving electronic devices, and somebody’s eyeballs going all demon-colored.

The plot is pretty basic. Two young graduates live together in an unfancy apartment, working their first jobs after graduation. While one girl is doing well—she gets a promotion early in the video—her roommate, Kate, can’t stay on top of her debt despite having a professional job. Her parents are unsympathetic, and her boss won’t pay her for overtime.

Anxiety over the looming debt takes over Kate’s life until—well, I’ll let you watch it for yourself. Just try to make sure no one walks up to your desk at the exact moment that a door slams, because I can confirm the coffee is never coming back out of those pants, no sir.

The short horror-flick-cum-PSA is brought to you by the nonprofit group American Student Assistance. Once all the fun terrorizing is out of the way, the film directs viewers to ASA’s Web site, which features resources for young borrowers like an online loan-management tool and internship searches. Three lucky people can win a sweepstakes prize of $10,000, which could help pay off some of that debt. Though, as the video itself points out, that might cover only a fraction of some students’ loans. And if they weren’t already aware of that fact, then surely the video will make it clear. You’re not nearly scared enough, kids.

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