Darkstream Entertainment, 2020
📷 : Used with permission, Vahagn Karapetyan
Suspenseful and intense thrillers
Movies and TV shows about drugs or with disorienting presentations
Horror movies can choose any number of ways to scare their audience. Generally, though, their main characters have some sense of companionship, even as their lives are on the line. If there is a mystery to figure out or a killer to take down, they can still rely on one another for information, protection, or even a diversion. Some movies, however, go the route of isolating their protagonist, forcing them to not only piece together information themselves but also to stand and fight alone. For example, Hush is a home invasion movie that takes place in the woods, following a deaf and mute woman trying to survive a masked killer on her own. But what if the source of evil is more paranormal? Such is the case in the witchcraft-themed short film, Wicca Book.
Adapted from the concept of a series of books on black magic, Vahagn Karapetyan’s short Wicca Book revolves around a book of drawings that unleashes a demonic presence and turns its possessor into a witch. Mia (Kika Zachariadou), a young cave diver, comes across the buried book while exploring a cave. After a brush with death in her own home, she unloads the book onto a stranger, only to discover from messages in the book that sacrificing others will make her evil as well. She must retrieve the book and dispose of it for good, but can she do so without coming face-to-face with the evil spirit again?
Though it is a little unclear exactly why the book forewarns Mia of what is to happen, the cautionary writings give Mia what every protagonist needs: choices that reveal their character. She initially feels fear of the unknown and seeks to unload the book, but with the knowledge of what will result, she retrieves it and takes it upon herself to take down the demonic presence. Just the same, the book tells her when to unload or retrieve it. She is repeatedly under pressure in terms of when to make a decision, which raises the stakes even higher. The climax puts her directly in a fight-or-flight situation with no one to rely on but herself.
Wicca Book creates its unsettling, paranormal atmosphere through clever cinematography from its director of photography, Nikos Kaltsas. It is mostly composed of very tight shots, following whoever possesses the book very closely as they investigate the noises surrounding them, using pans and tilts to follow the characters’ gazes. Most scenes are dark except for the red and white lights silhouetting the demonic presence. The characters, for the entirety of the short, are centered in the shot, which gives the feeling of them being alone with nowhere to escape to.
The shot composition is aided by the sound mixing, which puts the viewer on edge from beginning to end. Every subtle movement, such as throwing back bed sheets, opening a door or sliding the curtain to the side, has its sound amplified. In other projects, these sounds may be minute if accounted for at all, but since there is no dialogue and very minimal human interaction, the decision to magnify these sounds heightens the scare factor. Occasionally, there are the muffled sounds of a crying baby or similar noises that simply make the viewer feel as though something is wrong. Last but not least, the music complements these amplified sounds well, as there are several ominous strings, drums, and deep horns that are perfectly timed with the reveals.
Wicca Book bares slight similarities to the 2009 film The House of the Devil. In the film, a babysitter shows up to a remote location and becomes the target of a witch and cult surrounding her. While the late 2000s film does not necessarily center an object like a book of black magic in its plot as Wicca Book does, both projects effectively isolate their characters and force them to save themselves.