I wrote the below toot after watching Panos Cosmatos' trippy sci-fi horror excursion The Viewing:
The thing with this series is that you will get the most out of it if you, like del Toro, are a horror fan. You will get the thrill of realizing how impeccably evocative Cosmatos' story is, how classic and familiar it feels.
Another thing to be conscious of is that I think short film is not a medium equally enjoyed by everyone. If you want a short film to just be essentially a feature film with a shorter run-time, you will find it disappointing and incomplete. Short films, like short stories, run a little more on vibes and mood than their longer counterparts. The mental and emotional payoff is packaged more densely. If you aren't going to be satisfied with a sharp punch of an ending, you're not going to be happy with a short film.
I adore short film as a medium for exactly that reason. So much richness can be put into such a small package and sometimes the “completeness” which a full-length feature film requires would actually dilute the delicious experience.
The Autopsy and The Viewing are both classic sci-fi horror tales (The Autopsy, is an adaptation of a horror short story by the same name; The Viewing is an original screenplay, but evocative of many other tales). Despite sharing this “genre” they are totally different types of stories, each rich and beautiful in its own way.
The Autopsy is cold with vibes of the detective genre. The Viewing is rich, lush, and absolutely psychedelic. This is the charm of what del Toro has gifted us in this series. Shining examples of story styles, lovingly crafted, each unique.
Directed by: David Prior
Teleplay by: David S. Goyer
based on a short story by Michael Shea
– F. Murray Abraham
– Glynn Turman
– Luke Roberts
Run time: 58 minutes
If I ranked del Toro's introductions for these episodes from most to least Rod Serling, the intro for The Autopsy would rank as “second most Rod Serling” right after The Outside.
This episode is the third in the series, and it made me sit up and take notice in a way that its predecessors, charming as they were, did not. It reminded me of my first encounters with horror as a literary genre. The thing is I can't remember specifics. I feel like I remembering reading the Michael Shae short story, but honestly when I try to recall, I go back in my mind instead to being in my grandparents' basement reading Leiningen Versus the Ants. A different thing entirely, but it's something of that feeling for me, my early somewhat unwitting encounters with how terror could build on the written page.
For much of The Autopsy, you are trying to solve the mystery, but when the answer comes, it's easy to forget there ever was a mystery to begin with, because instead you are so absorbed in the horrific thing in front of you and the cold, hopeless feeling that cruelty will inevitably conquer...unless....
And that “unless” keeps you hanging on to the very end.
The visuals, by the way, are disturbing. The body horror, the grotesquery, all there. All as it should be.
Directed by: Panos Cosmatos
Written by: Panos Cosmatos & Aaron Stewart-Ahn
– Peter Weller
– Steve Agee
– Eric Andre
– Sofi Boutrkla
– Charlyne Yi
– Michael Therriault
– Saad Siddiqui
Run time: 56 minutes
In much the way that the protagonists in this tale are offered “the good stuff” by their host, I felt “now this is the good stuff” as I watched. The play of light and color and sound create impeccable vibes here as Cosmatos weaves his tale of the bizarre.
Peter Weller's performance is foundational to this piece. Without his mesmerizing, slightly menacing, yet comforting, presence this story might not captivate, but thanks in large part to this performance, we the viewers find ourselves caught, like the characters, in what appears to be his web: held in place until it is too late.
We should not give credit to only one actor though. A film like this requires its full cast to carry their weight. And they do. On a note of personal taste, I found Michael Therriault's performance as a slightly fussy famed psychic to be especially entertaining.
The soundscape is wonderful, the visual design stunning, the performances entrancing.
This is a blog by Sarah Anne. Find me on Mastodon.