Review: Utukku – The Aquinian

Vielda the main character of the short film Utukku. (Courtesy of Linis Training Center)

The comic horror web series by Acadian filmmaker Mathieu Laprise Utukku features bullying on the playground that escalates into the supernatural.

It’s sly, silly, and satisfyingly over the top – a celebration of the urge for disproportionate revenge. It both parodies and validates the schoolboy intensity, moving from petty to poignant to joyous.

Rather than a horror-comedy, it feels like a self-glorifying revenge fantasy. It does so in just 15 aesthetically pleasing minutes, segmented into three five-minute chapters called “The Doll”, “The Exorcism”, and “The Amulet”.

The audience is introduced to our heroine, Vielda, as she sniffles and cries in a pitch-black space devoid of sound.

The scene is an intimate close-up of her face that is almost uncomfortable. It is sad, gripping and complex. The nature of her tears passing through shock, pain, memory and calm for ten long seconds. When the ringing of his phone ricochets in the darkness and breaks his reverie, we hear his voice for the first time.

As much as the scene is emblematic of the anti-bullying sketches that travel through colleges, audiences immediately bond with it — its fragility, intensity, and naivety.

It’s quite a feat to rehumanize a trope with a dialogue phrase.

The scene turns into a jarring flashback: a swarm of giggling girls, led by leader Nadine, push Vielda into a locker. The school lights go out as Vielda calls for help.

All we need to understand is that being shoved in a locker is worthy of looking for a demon to curse your bully.

The film plays with visuals in a very compelling way – the nuances of revenge, pain and power are filled in by the audience rather than presented explicitly. Tropes contribute to this. It is strategic that Nadine looks like a textbook bully, that every feature of her face is mischievous. It’s strategic how this complements victim Vielda, who is doe-eyed, clumsy, sassy, ​​and a budding goth girl.

The stereotypes are so familiar and comforting that they allow the film to succeed without exploring the character. And then their limits are delightfully pushed as Vielda visits a shaman to acquire a demon.

“Having enemies has nothing to do with age,” she told the wary shaman.

She is offered a trapped demon in the form of a doll.

She’s a creepy comic doll – waxy, humanoid, with tousled black hair, a body made of voodoo strings and a green amulet. It comes to life in a flash of red eyes and a booming, rumbling soundtrack.

Vielda whistles commands into the doll’s ear at school, watching Nadine. She smiled seeing her wishes come true. Nadine sinks into acts of self-humiliation.

The way the movie tackles the supernatural is also something I enjoyed. The supernatural is not portrayed as dramatic or even strange. It’s a casual. The demon is a classic demon – a red-eyed rage with a passion for telekinetic chokeholds.

The devil is a part of life, just like being pushed into a locker. It makes the movie feel like a daydream – something that doesn’t need to be realistic or even cohesive. It just has to be satisfying.

Utukku is addictive and witty. It’s predictable but entertaining, over the top but relatable.
The film plays with non-linear timelines to deliver everything in 15 minutes. Rather than a film, it’s more intuitive to see it as a painting. It’s clean and compact. There is not a second wasted. It’s always lush. The characters are deliberately shallow so they can fully embody self-indulgence and its comedies. I like this brevity.

The film is a concise way to playfully reconnect with your vengeful side.

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