Waking up from a nightmare is jarring. You panic, take in your surroundings, maybe reach for your loved one before you go back to sleep. But what happens when that horrible nightmare is reality? In Inferno, a short-film from the Chattanooga Film Fest, Marianna (Taylor Cloyes) wakes up from a terror only to discover that it’s real.
In this short film, directed by Bishal Dutta and currently screening at the now virtual Chattanooga Film Fest, Inferno pushes how we perceive reality and offers up a unique monster from hell. While the nightmare is just the start, Marianna is trapped within a decrepit, run-down motel when she begins to piece together the horrors around her through creaking doors, broken glass, and a rifle, when a fateful encounter brings her face-to-face with the monster.
At only seven minutes long, Dutta packs ever second with interesting visuals and anxious tension that builds as each minute moves on. There is no dialogue and Cloyes moves the short film as its only character through panicked breaths and emotive expressions. Bathed in red motel neon, Inferno opens strong and accelerates towards its end with more and more terror. In fact, this short-film showcases how little you need to build a good scare.
While Cloyes’ acting is what fuels the nightmare, the design of the monster is grotesque and breathtaking. While we only see it for brief moments, with closeups of its back or hands at any given moment, it’s gorgeous. The emaciated body, the horns, the gnarled nails, it’s just absolutely perfect and not overused. In fact, until the end of Inferno, Dutta causes you to doubt whether or not the monster is all in Marianna’s head. The glimpses we see heighten the tension until the final reveal.
Overall, Inferno proves how much emotion can be done in a short amount of time. Breathing, expressions, and lighting can cut you to your core in just seven minutes.
Inferno proves how much emotion can be done in a short amount of time. Breathing, expressions, and lighting can cut you to your core in just seven minutes.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.