Review: Amok

Written and directed by Balázs Turai, after losing his fiancée and his good looks in a freak accident involving an evil Santa Claus gnome, Clyde must confront his inner demons.

Jumping into Amok, Balázs Turai is slapping the viewers in the face with colour and vibrancy, in the best way. It makes a punch of a first impression and tells you straight away what kind of film this is going to be. It’s diving headfirst into a pool of creativity and weirdness, its vibe is like David Bowie on mushrooms. There’s also a video game feel to the way that it moves, it’s leading you through its world within the sympathetic perspective of its hero. It has a number of different genres blended into one strong, strange package, going from fantasy to horror to comedy and an edge of drama. There’s a lot thrown at you but it’s never overwhelming, it’s fun to find out what’s coming around the next corner, in an entertainingly creepy, Mulholland Drive sort of way.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Amok is that it’s ultimately an exploration of mental health, guilt and loss. It’s a rumination on how we all have our own demons, even if we don’t usually see them as a violent, disturbing Santa Claus gnome. In that sense, it’s actually surprisingly clever, because it’s being extremely overt but uses a lot of subtext at the same time. Its tone has a bluntly honest style, it may be interpreting the topic through a wacky, exaggerated lens but it still feels like it’s putting all of its emotion front and centre.

How strongly these choices work is intensified by the fact that it is essentially silent, its characters may make the odd noise but there’s no dialogue at work. So managing to get across some rather complex themes about dark, difficult emotions is impressive. The balance between those and the deeply fantasy, incredibly imaginative visual is on that’s extremely difficult to get right but Balázs Turai excels at bringing them together. It’s helped partially by a great use of music throughout that has a adventurous feel.

Amok brings to life what it might be like to dive into the deep, dark recesses of someone’s mind when struggling with grief, if they were on acid. It’s fantastically vibrant, the colour bombards the screen and doesn’t let up for any of its short but wonderful fourteen minutes. It’s weird, twisted, violent and yet has a genuine sadness to it, which considering it also has a fairly male, immature sense of humour, shouldn’t be possible and yet it genuinely works. Balázs Turai has taken the idea of using your imagination to the next level and created a delightful oddity, one that you’ll definitely want to return to.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯½ | 9/10

Screening as part of Glasgow Short Film Festival 2023

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