By Last Caress.
Vicious, the writing/directing debut of Somerset rising star Oliver Park, is an 11-minute anxiety attack, dread-soaked from start to finish. Make sure you watch it alone with the lights off and the sound up.
It’s late at night on a quiet residential street in Anytown, England. A woman – the credits identify her as “Lydia”, though she’s never referenced as such – has parked her car and is headed to her home. As she reaches the door, she notices the door is already slightly ajar. Gingerly pushing the door open, she calls a nervous “Hello?” into the silent gloom of the unlit house, and makes her way to the kitchen, where she appropriates a kitchen knife. She then proceeds to inspect the property room by room. Who’s in here? Is anyone in here?
Is any thing in here?
Anyone who has read one of Stephen King’s short story compilations or the works of HP Lovecraft – most of which are shorts – will be able to attest to the fact that, when done well, short-form storytelling fits the horror genre magnificently. No exposition or explanation. No background baggage. Not even any real reason is required for the nightmare being presented. All killer, no filler. That’s not to say that it’s easy, though. The creator of a bite-sized frightener only has a limited time and means with which to ratchet up the tension, or to get us to give a monkey’s for their protagonist. In the case of Vicious, Oliver Park knows what he’s doing and imbues his piece with a sense of great unease from the off, his slow camera movements through the long shadows of the house reminiscent of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014) assisted by an unsettling soundscape score which ably keeps the sense of foreboding and despair as high as the heart-rate, even during the periods of relative inaction. Vicious is a gore-free ghost-em-up but when Mr. Park decides to pay off the suspense, he does so with considerable aplomb.
So is Mr. Park an important new voice in the UK horror scene? Well it’s probably still a little early to say for sure, but the potential for just that is there, and there in spades. Another short – Still – is next up for him but if it’s as promising as Vicious, a feature-length debut cannot be far away. Then, we’ll see what we’ve got on our hands in Oliver Park. I’m watching with keen interest.
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