Directed by Torin Langen
Malleus Maleficarum (meaning ‘Hammer of the Witches’-and the title of a famous medieval text on witchcraft) is Canadian writer/director Torin Langen’s dialogue- free, occult short film currently picking up accolades at various film festivals across North America.
Recently the shocking and expertly crafted South Korean film Moebius by Kim Ki-Duk successfully put the use of a silent cast to excruciating effect and this sixteen minute film takes the same daring approach.
The film begins with a decrepit VHS production logo before fading in on a sepia Autumn palette with a foreboding biblical quote letting us know exactly where we are- in the familiar backwoods of a US low-budget horror film.
This story of occult fundamentalism , and the consequences of what happens when a conflicted member of this sect attempts to kick against the witches, works well and although shot in HD still has the ominous tone and colours that bring to mind nasty 70’s independent horrors like I Spit On Your Grave or Last House On The Left.
The scenes move swiftly, with a number of nice match cuts and cutaways, between the minimum number of locations and the running time of the film seems perfect for this visually reliant and atmospheric piece.
Given the demanding task of bringing their nameless characters to life and telling the story with only the use of reaction, expression and diegetic sound, the cast give solid performances and are the stand out element of the film. One bum note and the (black) magic might be ruined, but the performances, sound production and music (by New Wings members Stephen Schooley and Justin Cober) all contribute towards the success of this short film.
Shot on a shoe-string budget (but with enough practical gore effects to quench the bloodthirsty) Malleus Maleficarum is a bold risk that pays off and a refreshingly experimental take on the age-old witches-in-the-woods folktale.