I’ve always been a proponent, not just of short films, but of using the medium of short films to wring the most out of the chiller or horror genre. Freed from the requirement to sustain an atmosphere for 90+ minutes, the short film is effective in the build-up and twist, the vicious knife between the ribs, delivered so swiftly that it wounds brutally even when we see it coming. Coupled with an efficient use of resources to present its chills, the field is somewhat crowded with filmmakers hoping to match the blood-curdling success of something like Sandberg’s Lights Out, one of my favourites. It is into this arena that filmmaker Oliver Park has thrust himself with Vicious.
In Vicious, Lydia’s sister Katie died in mysterious circumstances. When Lydia returns home late one night to find her front door unlocked, a series of strange occurrences suggest she isn’t alone. Rachel Winters, as Lydia, is our protagonist, a young woman in mourning. Mourning, denial and guilt; her sister had always claimed there was a supernatural threat, clearly an absurd claim. Will her denial put Lydia in danger? Will her fate be the same as her sister’s?
Vicious is well shot and, especially important this genre, very well paced. The feeling of the invasion of safety and sanctuary progresses rapidly, though unrushed. The visuals and Rachel Winters’ acting amplify and ratchet up the tension; we really do feel her terror. However special consideration must be given to the sound, which cannot be lauded enough for doing exactly what it must: Illuminating and guiding the mood, without being intrusive; from the creaks to groans, from screams to silence, the sound is spot on. Vicious has been well-received at film festivals across the world, winning at Toronto After Dark Film Festival, LA Horror Competition and the Northern Frights Film Festival. This is Oliver Park’s directorial debut and after this first short film, we’re looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. And we’ll have the opportunity to in the not-too-distant future, he’s currently crowdfunding for his next short horror film, Still. Do contribute if you can!
Update: Since this article was first written, Vicious became available to the public!