Frightfest: Pandemonium (2023)

Director: Quarxx

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Starring: Hugo Dillon, Arben Bajraktaraj, Manon Maindivide, Ophélia Kolb

Awakening in the middle of the road, Nathan (Hugo Dillon) sees a horrific car wreckage before him. His disbelief at surviving such a crash is pushed aside upon discovering he is not alone, as bike rider Daniel (Arben Bajraktaraj) also appears unscathed. It soon becomes clear that the men did not survive their crash, and are wandering souls within a purgatorial state.

While Nathan remains in denial about the circumstances, the distorted sense of time means Daniel has reached acceptance during a longer stay in this realm. Their thought process wavers during this shocking experience, from struggling to comprehend this reality, to lamenting about those they leave behind, and realising this proves the existence of life after death. As the surroundings change from a misty terrain to increasingly wintery weather, two differently coloured doors appear from which the men hear different sounds coming from. They are to be judged for their Earthly actions, which will determine their place in the afterlife.

Writer/Director Quarxx delivers effectively thoughtful material for a 25-minute short film, which has such impressive focus that it leaves one to question where the remaining 70-minutes will go. The proceedings then follow an anthology structure which delves into the separate experiences of two unconnected souls; a little girl whose cold-hearted actions scare her parents, and a mother refusing to engage with reality after her daughter's suicide. As the story delves into dark places, these tales drag on in ways appearing to wallow in the misery too much. It picks up upon returning to David, as excellent prosthetic make-up is showcased to help convey that humanity can never overcome their need to atone. It is a bleak message to carry amidst an overwhelming tone that may become much for some viewers. For those who are taken by this pitch-black pessimistic tale, there is much to appreciate.

Pandemonium made its UK Premiere at Frightfest