Directed by: Chase Michael Pallante
Cast: Janet Miranda, Jason Torres
Let me first start by saying that I am absolutely all for a company looking to protect their goods by placing a watermark in the center of their image. It makes theft a little less appealing and it makes it all but impossible to try and pass someone else’s artwork off as your own. I understand and support that. But holy hell, a large semi-transparent grey watermark right in the center of a film that’s shot in an almost entirely monochromatic design, the only real colors being blacks, whites, greys and light blue hues, is about three levels beyond distracting. For a film like Defarious, which, in part thrives because of the visual style, that’s not the greatest of ideas.
Now, beyond the pissing and moaning and onto the film itself.
Defarious opens with an attractive young woman springing to consciousness after having a nasty nightmare of a pale-faced menace with black rimmed eyes and a clear desire to hurt her. Obviously, she’s a little shaken. What’s she do? Something that – oddly enough – struck me as a little somber: she immediately looks around for her cellphone. It may be hard for me to explain my reasoning, but this actually had a pretty big effect on me. Her natural instinct wasn’t to roll over and try to get back to sleep, or to get up and grab a glass of water, or even to go outside and grab a smoke… you know, the regular crap people do when a nightmare scares the hell out of them. Instead she looks for that electronic realm that we’ve all come to rely on. There’s just a weird disconnection for me in that moment, and I know that’s on me; I’m one of the extreme few that hates the digital age. Color me old fashioned, but I miss human connection and interaction… life felt different very just 20 years ago… but this is what it’s all come down to.
As it turns out, maybe looking for her phone helped to lead to her doom, as when she doesn’t find it connected to her charger, she begins searching through her dark home (nice casa, for the record) for it. She doesn’t find it upstairs, or downstairs… she treks through her entire home before suddenly running into the very face that woke her from sleep. From here we get a game of cat and mouse, our mouse possessing some of the worst survival instincts in history.
As things are looking bad for our leading lady, another moment really hit me pretty hard. She’s already feeling helpless, and she already has the look of a woman who’s given up, when she sees an image of her mother, just feet away. It forced me to think for a moment on my own loneliness, and my understanding that mommy can’t help me when life is on the line. Now understand that away from this computer, in the real world, I’m a mean, violent bastard. I’m the guy you see in the grocery store that looks like he’d be the first to put his fist through your orbital bone. And there’s a reason for that: I am. I have a deep disdain for human beings, a direct result of the obstacles I’ve faced in life, the people who’ve hurt me and the people I’ve hurt. But in this moment when this woman sees her mother and calls out to her in desperation, I paused to wonder: If a psychopath was desperately attempting to take my life, would I yearn for the protection of my mother one final time? I hope so… and for a split second that realization toyed with my emotions.
I’m not going to spoil the final moments and result of this film, but I will tell you that it’s a very fitting conclusion that I enjoyed quite a bit. In fact, I enjoyed the film as a whole immensely. Small details leapt from the screen and became something deep and powerful for me. I occasionally experience this, but it isn’t common. So kudos to director Chase Michael Pallante, who generates a seamless misperception of dream and reality, and transforms mundane beats into jarring triggers. Pallante’s short is absolutely beautiful and deeply engrossing, but best of all, it’s genuinely frightening.
Certainly one of the better shorts I’ve seen recently.