I didn’t want to finish this horror short for all the right reasons. Creepy and disturbing visuals accompanied by a chilling score make what could have easily been a simplistic boring gag into one of the most terrifying fifteen minutes of my life. That being said, I am one of the biggest wimps of all time when it comes to horror so I will leave the exact degree of terror to you. But still, Vicious makes excellent use of its low resources, making something out of nothing around every turn. While a bit low on story and character development, the film does what it came to do with its limited run time – and that’s to scare the ever loving pants off of you.
Written and directed by newcomer Oliver Park, Vicious is a hell of a good first attempt. It follows the story of Lydia, a young woman whose sister recently died from mysterious causes. This is the one area where the film really falters. There is next to no storytelling whatsoever. Unless you are really paying attention, you won’t even gather that the original girl who died was related to our protagonist at all. What little exposition we do get is clumsily delivered and will ultimately leave viewers confused unless they read a plot synopsis beforehand so… you’re welcome. Luckily, the film doesn’t rely on its story. This one is all about the art of the scare.
Set primarily in the cramped space of a one room apartment, you would think a camera wouldn’t have much room to move. Shockingly there are terrific shots winding timidly through staircases, twisting through menacingly dark corridors, and standing outside menacing closed doors. Park takes a very minimalistic approach here. There is a supernatural beast prowling the edges of the narrative but it has less than twenty seconds of screen time. The scares come from the unknown; the dark hallways, the suspicious looking lumps at the end of a bed. It’s a smart technique that works well with a small budget. The actress playing Lydia does the best she can trying to look scared at every nook and cranny but doesn’t quite pull it off. Luckily the film focuses more on the environment than the actress herself. The score and lighting create a perfect accompaniment to the visual. Shrill mixed strings give a nostalgic tribute to Psycho while pitch black rooms are lit poorly with unreliable Iphones. Superbly done, this myriad of techniques will have you huddling for the safety of your covers with the lights kept on.
Vicious is horror done right. An obvious love letter to Hitchcock and Carpenter, the short indie film look professional, expertly crafted, and most importantly scary. In a consistently desensitized world, it’s always refreshing to find something that can still get under the skin. This is especially impressive when you have a limited budget and crew. The effort and love shows and makes for an excellent picture. RDR gives Vicious a well-deserved 9 out of 10.