12 Sept 2021
Alicia, Zinta, Bidah
D-ni Ok’s no-budget short follows Alice, a teenage girl who gains psychic powers following an accident. Over the course of one school day, she learns to harness her newfound abilities, but also learns that they have come at a cost.
The plot here is messy to say the least. A simple idea can benefit from clever execution, but there is so much that Ok wants to do and say, that inevitably some ideas are under-explored. The premise is strong, and the film could survive without too many deviations. A normal girl gaining supernatural abilities is something we have seen before (while the film is inspired by 80s sci-fi/horror, it also recalls stories like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), and the visual cues are all here, right down to the blood dripping from her nose in more intense moments. Sadly, due to its length and scattershot focus, Alice is quite a shallow film, refusing to engage in the more interesting questions. Why, for example, does our protagonist almost immediately decide to use her psychic powers to torture a fellow student? There is a conflict later on which revolves around an immature argument, but would that be enough for a girl to act this way seemingly without remorse? There may be attempts to answer this, but the editing is so chaotic that it is impossible to know.
Technically, the strongest elements are the music (composed by Adam Dani on a smartphone), and some of the practical effects. The score is intense and pumped with electricity, and the decision to record an alternative version of the main theme – this time using a choir – adds to the epic feeling the filmmakers clearly wanted. Some of the effects are underwhelming. Alice’s fall from the balcony, which induces her powers, appears to be filmed in front of a green screen, and the meaty, almost comedic thud of her head hitting the ground effectively ruins the mood. However, there are some clever visuals here, such as an assembly of chairs parting for Alice like the Red Sea, and her classmate’s twisted expression as her hair tie is yanked free by invisible hands.
What also works is the setting. Filmed at a local school, there is absolutely a sense of realism; the students are clearly students, rather than actors. Additionally, in a rather meta choice, one of their teachers is currently making a film, using his students as actors. We watch the film’s climax through the lens of a camera a student has neglected to switch off, which is an interesting choice. The nature of the scene – how sudden and confused it is – means we hardly see anything. With a little more choreography, perhaps leaving the camera on a desk and having the students play out their conflict in a static shot, this could have been the film’s strongest scene. As it stands, it makes an already confusing story practically impenetrable.
Alice is a messy film. It moves too quickly and tries to tell a more complex story than it needs to. The mid-credits scene, taking place “61 days since the incident”, presents the students performing for a cultural festival. It should be fascinating to see how life (particularly school life) can go on after a tragic, shocking event, but considering that what we saw of the ‘incident’ was so confused and underwhelming, this scene does not hit as hard as it should. As it stands, there are welcome glimmers of promise in this disappointing short.