This French short film, STRIX, available to watch on YouTube is written by and directed by Roman Soni, is at first, a typical slasher/thriller. Opening with an unidentified killer in a beautiful Venetian mask you might see at an upscale masquerade, a young woman is bitten and killed. As the short unfolds, it seems to follow this typical pattern of the slasher, including how the next scenes are framed, another woman of typical beauty, framed in a way that signals the male gaze, cropping on this unsuspecting woman’s curved form just before she’s attacked and abducted.
If you’d like to see the film before I continue, you can do so here, or scroll to the bottom and check it out, if not, I’ll continue exploring the rest of what’s happening in this little gem.
The synopsis of the film also parrots this generic sort of slasher/thriller with the additional hint that a Machiavellian game plays a central role to the short plot:
One night, Greg discovers that his wife of is bound on a chair in the middle of the living room. A masked shape holds her hostage and forces Greg to play a Machiavellian game which will allow him to reveal his identity.
Described as an “homage to movies of the 80s and 90s,” the overall film is essentially a vampire short. The first death, I almost dismissed the way the young woman was killed, bitten near her neck, but not in a way that one might associate with a vampire kill. The Venetian mask, designed by artist Romain Houlès is left almost as a calling card to the kill.
The next scene, revealing more of the filming style of potential female victim as I mentioned before, the style of the male gaze, a typical characteristic of many horror shooting and story-telling styles, shows a blonde woman, attacked and knocked out. This leads into the climax of the mystery, as the attacker is in the beautiful, yet somewhat worn Venetian mask, to be found by Greg, the woman’s husband and the friend he is with.
From here on, a short question and answer game (Machiavellian in nature as described in the synopsis) ensues and it’s revealed that who we think is the killer, is actually once victim, determined to enact revenge for the death of his wife, the young woman from the beginning of the film. It’s then that a twist occurs, and we learn that Greg, his wife, and friend are actually vampires.
As the final moments of the driving force of the story take place, it doesn’t end well for the spurned masked man, who reveals himself as the husband of the victim in the opening scene. While all the vampires survive, even though attacked with what the previously masked man thinks is the “Achilles heel” of the fanged fiends, the end signals that the cycle simply continues.
The STRIX project, funded through Kickstarter with the, “intention to bring back the style of The Lost Boys or the slasher/thriller, Scream, the film is highly enjoyable and those inspirations are very easy to see, but what I enjoyed in association, that may not have been intentional, comes not from well-known horror, but from the tabletop RPG scene. If you’re familiar with the Dungeons & Dragons style of character creation, “dungeon master” run narrative dice gaming, you might have heard of the game, Vampire: The Masquerade.
Masquerade, appearing in 1991 also took inspiration from the vampire culture of film, The Lost Boys, which makes the association with the two through this film so logical. The game is written for players to assume vampire roles in a narrative, navigate the story themes that include the struggle of what morals we have as humans living in society, and the lifestyle of insatiable hunger for humans and what morals one might apply to a life of immortality (but only if you’ve rolled your dice right).
The Machiavellian game played at the center of the story in STRIX was what really brought my mind to Masquerade as I watched, since a good game master may intentionally obscure game objectives in similar fashions.
Overall, it’s a well-made short horror that, while still has the qualities of independent short film making like a little stilted dialogue (even though yes, it’s in French and reading subtitles isn’t always ideal) and there are some rough transitions between camera angles, the music, makeup, and effects show a lot of skill and the story leaves me wanting more about these characters.
I encourage you to watch below with more notes from the director about the individuals involved in the project including the full list of cast. Check it out below and let us know what you think!
STRIX stars Corentin Cuvelier, Sébastien Wust, Emilie GN, Yohan Desvaux and Juline Thibaut.
Special effects were created by Lysiane Vaquero. The composer, Emmanuel Cavallo made the score and music inspirations came from Jerry Goldsmith (Congo, Total Recall, Star Trek: Voyager) to Marco Beltrami (I, Robot, World War Z, The Wolverine). Some other talented people, Chris Steadyprod and John Capone for the artworks with Neil Photo on still photography, Guillaume Bouiges for the visual effects.