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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Lion (2017) review

LION 2017

Pedro Sanchez (Leon), Michael Segal (Jeff), Tania Mercader (Amanda)

Directed by Davide Melini

The Short Version: Winning a massive number of awards around the world, LION roars as a horror short--delivering a message of domestic violence with a supernatural twist. There's a lot to like here for a 12 minute effort that's currently a leader in its pack. 

On a dark and snowy night, a young child wishes for a release from his abusive existence at the hands of a brutish, drunken father and a compliant mother.

LION is a 2017 horror short subject that--as of November 17th, 2019--has been the recipient of a staggering 284 awards over the course of two years of global film festival play and counting. Blending a tale of domestic violence with the supernatural, it's well shot, acted, and, in its most effective sequence, manages to wring an enormous amount of tension out of a scene involving a woman under a bed and a creaking door.

The opening credits, while impressively eye-catching, give the impression you're going to see something more opulent than the quaint, isolated, TWILIGHT ZONE-styled story that unspools before you; one that leads to a dark, yet optimistic conclusion.

Dialog is limited, with good performances given what little is actually said. Michael Segal is Jeff, the anger-driven, drunken husband with a severe chip on his shoulders and an utter disdain for both his family and his own existence. Jeff doesn't need to say a lot when he evokes all that is visually needed just by cracking open one beer after another and threatening to beat his child again.

There's some gore during the final minutes just before the big reveal, but it's the power of suggestion that is the driving force behind the narrative. The visuals of the cabin's isolation and the snow storm outside provide some brief moments of impending doom. A few extra minutes could've intensified the proceedings, but it's an admirably polished 12 minutes regardless.

Francesco Tresca's score is ambitious and varied in its cues. Considering the subject matter, the opening theme feels out of place, but majestic in its resonance. Tresca's more ominous sections aid in honing the horror--particularly in two key shock sequences.

Director Melini, an Italian filmmaker, worked as Dario Argento's AD on MOTHER OF TEARS: (2007) and on the television series INTO THE BADLANDS (2015-2019) among other credits. He's directed six short films with the most recent being DEEP SHOCK (2019). Having your project mounted by names attached to major Hollywood features certainly doesn't hurt lending one's work some prestige, either. Makeup artists Luca Vannella (AVENGER, THOR), Alexis Continente (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT), Vincenzo Mastrantonio (TITANIC, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST), and stuntman-turned-producer Bobby Holland Hanton (THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, WONDER WOMAN) produced.

With several short films on his resume, and LION being a festival favorite (and one of, if not the most awarded short horror subject in history), hopefully director Melini is given the opportunity to direct on a much wider canvas with a full-length feature as his potential masterstroke.

Running time: 00:11:48

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