Saturday, June 10, 2017

SSFF & Asia ’17: Black Ring (short)

Initially, they seem to be some kind of secret society, but the elites who gather at a dilapidated villa are actually far more sinister. They must be nefarious, because they all travel in black Range Rovers. We can have confidence in our assessment of their malicious intentions, because nothing will get lost in translation during the course of Hasan Can Dagli’s dialogue-free (but not silent) short film Black Ring, which screens during the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2017, an Oscar-qualifying festival.

Arguably, the lack of verbal communication makes the set-up even more unsettling. Clearly, these people have gathered in the middle of nowhere for evil purposes. We might guess where Dagli is taking his narrative—sort of an Eyes Wide Shut twist on one of the most notorious urban legends. However, there is also a pronounced element of class consciousness.

Dagli cranks up the tension to eleven and shows a mastery of horror mise en scene. This film will really get under viewers’ skin—maybe even undercutting their general faith in humanity. In terms of craftsmanship, Dagli (also serving as his own editor) and cinematographer Olcay Oguz display some hugely impressive chops.

Still, we can’t help wonder how this film has been received in Turkey. It is hard to believe a horror filmmaker would have much affinity for Erdogan’s intolerant Islamist ideology and increasingly authoritarian regime. Much like Putin, Erdogan’s prime partisans would be older, uneducated, fundamentalist rural nationalists. He probably finds little support among highly educated, affluent, Westernized, artsy hipsters. Yet, that is exactly the demographic Black Ring casts as sadistic predators.

Regardless of any domestic implications, Black Ring is a lethally effective horror short. Frankly, it would be nice to see it expanded into a feature, in which the tables are eventually turned. As it now stands, Black Ring is one of the most disturbing films out there, even though its gore is far from extreme, at least by genre standards. Recommended for hardcore fans, Black Ring screens again today (6/10) and Thursday (6/15) as part of the International program-4 at this year’s SSFF & Asia.