A young girl wakes up to investigate what is lying behind a series of mysterious occurrences only to step into a dark spiral of terror and buried family secrets. Here is the Screen Critix review of writer-director Diego Di Iorio short horror Scars.
Scars is what I call a modern horror film in the old fashioned sense. Now to explain what I mean by this I would ask you to look at the recent works by Ari Aster (Midsommar and Hereditary) Jordan Peele (Get Out and Us) along with The Babadook and even earlier works like the iconic The Sixth Sense. I considered these modern horrors in the old fashioned sense because they all, well almost all, forego blood, guts, and gore to focus more on the ordinary characters involved in these extraordinary situations. Each film follows a similar pattern of a slow build-up, and an ominous sense of trepidation that cranks up the tension in the audience before allowing them a final, horrifying release. Dread is what permeates throughout the entire 9-minute runtime of Scars, alongside an unease, and terror that patiently waits in the shadows to engulf its characters.
Di Iorio knows what he is doing here; the comparisons I have made are obvious and undeniable influences on him, but he is also subtly bringing to mind the more European styles of Polanski and Argento – filmmakers who worked on the more symbolic aspects of horror, and the things that haunted people’s nightmares, which at the time turned an audience’s expectations of the horror genre on its head.
A young girl named Rachel (played by Charity Rose), as an exercise in nervous curiosity, leaves her bed and wanders the corridors of her large home by candlelight, determined to discover the source of unexplained occurrences that have woken her. As she wanders the grandiose corridors and staircases the excellent sound design of the film kicks in. Jacinto Gonzalez is the sound designer, and while Di Iorio’s visuals are both creepy and eerie, it is the sounds that Rachel hears as she silently walks the halls that are the most memorable aspect of the short. The tension Gonzalez manages to create with simple noises like a ticking clock, a music box, breathing and even the turning of a page becomes nerve-wracking. The cinematography by Byonghoon Jo, which includes his lighting, also leaves us with some memorable images, like Rachel’s face lit by candlelight and a very Argento moment of the girl’s face bathed in red light.
Despite Scars flaws – a disappointing ending that lets down the tremendous build-up, and a lack of major scares that means it remains a level or two below the intensity needed to be truly frightening – Di Iorio’s direction shows a lot of confidence. He doesn’t rely or build his film on jump scares or action sequences, instead, he aims more for a slow-burning haunted house mystery that by deftly used pacing with the reveals, he is successfully able to do. Di Iorio deserves a lot of praise for, continually trying to propel his audience and his story forward, for bringing together a truly international cast and crew, and for his talent that manages to keep us riveted, intrigued, and engaged in Scars until the very end.