It is a very difficult task to make an effective horror film that takes place entirely in one location. It’s even harder when the film is made to feel like it’s a Livestream and is only 4 minutes long. But somehow, Kevin Cappiello’s excellent new short, The Black Orchid Challenge, achieves scares with flying colors while containing all of the elements stated above.
Streaming via Youtube on October 19th, The Black Orchid Challenge follows a Live Streaming gamer who gets recommended a scary game to play by one of her viewers called The Black Orchid Challenge. The game is creepier than most online gamers would expect, loaded with frightening imagery reminiscent of 2014’s film, The Babadook. In just four minutes, Cappiello is able to pack in many creepy set pieces that show great promise for the filmmaker’s future.
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One of the key aspects that makes this short so effective is the lead performance by Brooklyn Allan. With a striking appearance that is perfect for a film that features the actress in mostly close-ups, Allan is charming and easy to root for. She is the only cast member in the film and she is so engaging that no one else was really needed.
The film’s story was another highlight. It’s not an easy task to tell a memorable story within just a few minutes, but this tale does exactly what a good horror short should do by setting up an interesting story arc that features a horrific character and leaves the viewers wanting more. As soon as the film begins, the folklore of the so-called Black Orchid begins to be explained via a shared computer screen. The audience is shown ominous shadow figures that look like the most frightening sleep paralysis demons around. The Black Orchid is a terrifying character who is worthy of being welcomed into the world of horror villains with open arms.
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The movie manages to effectively play with modern-day horror tropes like jump scares. The short opens with the live streamer playing a recognizable maze game that ends with a jump scare, already putting the idea that one will happen in the audience’s head. Then the moody atmosphere is thrown the audience’s way, making us feel like anything will pop out at us from a corner at any moment, but then it never does, until we least expect it. Lots of horror flicks nowadays rely solely on jump scares, which is lazy, but The Black Orchard Challenge acknowledges this fact and has fun with it while also feeling unpredictable.
This film seems as though it was filmed during quarantine, and everything that could have been utilized when making a film during social distancing time was indeed done so in the most perfect of ways. The whole short is just one shot, and the amount of sheer terror that is felt in the one-room setting is off the charts. The sound design adds to the experience as well, providing extra tension when things are starting to get real. The creature design is also effective and makes this reviewer very interested in seeing what kind of spooky happenings could be in store with a feature-length version of this short horror.
Wicked Rating: 8/10