The strange subjectivity of animation is one of its most appealing qualities as a medium. The control that animation gives you over every element of the frame, combined with its openness and accessibility even when you’re presented with extremely stylized aesthetics makes it well suited to communicating some complex inner states. Even when the story itself isn’t 100% clear, a good short can pull you through some mighty strange moods in the span of a few minutes, in ways that can be entertaining and unsettling at the same time.
Take Kilian Vilim’s Ooze, for example. Even without knowing that it’s inspired by the director’s actual experience as an elevator operator, all it takes is a handful of isolated frames to pick up on the film’s emotional core. The crisp black-and-white artwork, without so much as a hint of gray, instantly creates a mood that’s stark, hostile, and unforgiving. The shots of the brightly lit elevator passing through the pitch-black frame are claustrophobic and isolating, even before the more explicit representations of the main character’s breakdown. The mechanical motions of the sliding doors and descending elevators only add to the alienation, giving the film an inhuman rhythm. Without so much as a word, you’re drawn into a state of deep, dreamlike loneliness.
If it’s fair to classify Ooze as a psychological horror film (it’s certainly unsettling, in spite of its cartoonish character design), it’s a much more internal one than the genre usually allows for—and a more efficient one, too. In only five minutes, you’re drawn into the elevator operator’s plight, pulled through the depths of his unconscious, and emerge, well, somewhere else, although it’s hard to say where, exactly.
Vilim says the ending is meant to be optimistic, and the upbeat music and cute-ish illustrations in the credits help a little with that interpretation, but there’s no doubt this is a story birthed from some pretty dark places. It’s anxious, isolated, and more than a little jarring. All of which makes it a pretty perfect film for Halloween 2020.
dir: Kilian Vilim
syn: In his everyday life, an elevator boy is confronted with the loneliness and the “up and down” of his service. When he tries to attract the attention of his guests, he makes a very different, gloomy encounter with himself.