An effective little horror film, slightly short on story and runtime, but delivers enough scares to make you want to sleep with the lights on!
Defarious is the stuff of nightmares. Far more terrifying than most feature films, this short film packs a mighty punch, and by the end of it you’ll be left looking over your shoulder in fear of what may be lurking behind you. Defarious is the latest short film from writer, director and producer, Chase Michael Pallante and his production company Rhythm&Flow Entertainment. This short film has picked up many awards including Best Film at the Los Angeles Independent Film Award and The Northeast Film Festival Horror Fest in New Jersey. Chase has also won Best Director, at The Toxic International Film Festival. It certainly deserves these awards, and its success on the festival circuit, as it is clear that there has been a great level of care and attention to detail towards the production of this effective little horror.
The film’s premise is simple, and that’s why it works so well. Not a single second is wasted with needless back story and preamble, the film dives quickly into this nightmarish landscape. The narrative centers on the topic of the terrifying experiences of sleep paralysis. Many of you may have encountered this term (perhaps some of you are unlucky enough to suffer from this condition), but for those who aren’t aware of sleep paralysis, I shall give a quick explanation. Sleep paralysis is when, during awakening or falling asleep, a person is aware but unable to move or speak. During an episode, one may hallucinate, which often results in fear. The film opens with a description of sleep paralysis, going onto describe that in the past, people believed it occurred due to demons visiting poor suffering souls in the night.
The film begins with haunting aerial photography, the camera overlooking a vast wooded area. Already we are unsettled by this unusual birdseye view as we sweep across the world, like death himself overlooking the mortals on the ground. The camera zooms in on a house, and we cut inside. At first, the house appears empty. We see shots of unoccupied rooms, great use of sound design at play, with the fridge humming away a little too loudly in the kitchen, and a grandfather clock ticking vociferously. Then the camera goes upstairs, where we meet a young woman called Amy (Janet Miranda) in the throes of a bad dream.
Amy is being tormented by her nightmares. They are beginning to manifest so strongly she becomes disillusioned between the world of her imagination and what is real. She wakes up only to be met with the frightening sight of a jeering clownish monster staring at her. This is one of the most effective jump scares that I have ever come across, and it left my heart racing uncontrollably. To our relief, the clown seems to be just a hallucination brought on by Amy’s condition, and we are given some explanation as to why she is currently enduring this paralysis. It would seem that she has tragically lost her mother. Amy realizes her phone is missing and begins searching around the house for it, but is she alone or is there something sinister lurking in the shadows?
There is lots to like with Defarious, with its great use of cinematography and sound design to build up the sense of dread and fear. As mentioned before the sound mixing was very well done, so praise must be given to sound mixer Fernando Frandy Castillo as well as director Chase Michael Pallante. Director of photography Jorge Canaveral makes excellent use of wide and high angles to create this sense of isolation and voyeurism, giving the impression that our main character is constantly being watched. The film also references 1970s home invasion films such as Halloween and Black Christmas, which will appeal to many horror fans out there.
However, there are a few issues in terms of narrative and plot development. The character of Amy feels a little underdeveloped, and Miranda isn’t given too much to do in terms of serious acting, spending most of the runtime running from room to room and screaming. Still, this is to be forgiven when we consider the film’s runtime and the limitations of short story cinema. It will be interesting to see whether Pallante could expand on this concept, and draw out a feature-length film, as he certainly seems adept at the horror genre.
Overall, if you’re looking for good horror and you’re tight on time, then do check out Defarious. Word of warning, it’s probably best to watch this one with the lights on and the front door locked! Don’t blame me if you end up having nightmares!