Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Sonoma ’24: Shé (Snake) (short)

Forget heavy metal. Classical music is better suited to horror. Just listen to the thunderous clash of compositions like Carmina Burana. Classical musicians are also more temperamentally inclined to appear in horror films, because, let’s face it, they can get pretty neurotic (in contrast, jazz musicians need to be cool). Unfortunately, young Fei is definitely neurotic—and then some. She is about to be pushed over the edge in Renee Zhan’s short film, Shé (Snake), which screens Friday at the Sonoma International Film Festival.

Fei is the first chair violinist in the orchestra of her elite performing arts academy. It is not just her seating position, it is central to her identity. Since she is bullied in school and taken for granted by her family, if she loses her chair, she loses everything. Yet, that is a real possibility when Mei transfers into her school and orchestra.

More than just a talented violinist, Mei seems to be a more pleasant and popular version of Fei. She could even be Fei’s doppelganger. To survive, Fei might have to resort to drastic violence. That is what the parasitic snakes and worms inside Fei’s body are telling her.

Naked Lunch-ish creatures are no joke. They are also pretty disgusting, thanks to Zhan’s stop-motion animation. Indeed, Shé (Snake) shares a kinship with Robert Morgan’s recent feature Stopmotion, both thematically and stylistically, but the social context is very different.

Regardless, Zhan’s film is strikingly macabre and it features a devastating performance from Xiaonan Wang as the tormented Fei.
Shé (Snake) is also a great example of concentrated filmmaking. The fifteen-minute short has a beginning, a middle, and an end, with a lot of creepiness along the way. Recommended for fans of both psychological horror and slimy slithering things, Shé (Snake) screens Friday night (3/22) as part of SIFF’s “To the Edge” shorts and it also screens Tuesday (3/26) during Make Believe Seattle.