As someone who’s very open about my mental health struggles, I’m always interested in projects that do the same. Often the best pieces of art come from a very personal place, and that’s exactly what Black Mass is to writer-director Scott Lyus.
Charlie, Meagan and Jessica are dealing with the recent death of their wife and mother, Carrie, whilst being haunted by a sinister presence known only as “Darkness”. The most terrifying thing about it is how real it is, as it personifies feelings of grief and depression.
From the get-go, it’s obvious that Charlie isn’t coping with the loss of Carrie, and he’s absolutely consumed by her loss. Meagan and Jessica do their best to comfort him, but it’s no easy task. We all know how hopeless you can feel when trying to reassure the recently bereaved, and the performances encapsulate that.
Lyus has spoken about this project, explaining in a statement: ‘The story is a passionate take on a very tough subject and I didn’t want to shy away from or sugarcoat what people with depression go through. I feel horror is the perfect genre to explore that story.’
With this in mind, Darkness (James Swanton) is a very imposing presence, and as a spectator you fear his very existence, dreading the moment he appears on screen. This is a relatable, raw way of visualising a battle with mental health, hoping and praying that it won’t come back again. But it always does.
Black Mass is a slow burner, but delivers as much tension and genuine terror as a feature length horror film, due to how well it’s paced. Whilst Darkness may be a fictional, monstrous being, what it represents is absolutely real. People suffer every day as a result of depression, and the film doesn’t shy away from making that known.
The film is driven by emotion, and its production allows you to get inside the character’s heads and understand how they’re feeling. It’s filmed brilliantly, with the lighting and colour palette representing each character’s feelings. The uncomfortable, tight close ups make you feel close to the situation, and powerless.
Combined with Mitch Bain‘s melancholic score, the film had me in tears by the end as I finally cracked and succumbed to the genuine horror I saw before me. It’s been a while since a horror film had such a profound effect on me, and I really do thank Black Mass for that.
Lyus has done something incredibly special with Black Mass, visualising depression in a way that is both sensitive and horrifying. Instead of relying on gore or excessive jumpscares, he opts for a slow, tension-driven story that is likely to leave you a complete mess at the end.
Black Mass is doing the festival route at the moment, but you can watch the trailer for this brilliant project down below:
Got a short film you want me to review? Get in touch at email@example.com with any relevant details.