“The Madame in Black” (2017): Siblings Dabble with Sinister Urban Legend

The Madame in Black (AKA Svarta Madam), the latest short from Jarno Lee Vincensius (Darkness Falls, 2016), is another fine effort showing that the Swedish filmmaker is a talent to watch. In this short, he uses an urban legend as his basis for an eerie tale of adult siblings caught up in circumstances that they set off as children.

When I say that the short is from Jarno Lee Vincensius, I mean that in the broadest sense of the term: he wrote, directed, and shot it, and is one of the producers. He obviously put his heart into The Madame in Black and this certainly shows in the film. Vincensius’s cinematography and choices for using light and shadow work together perfectly here, creating an eerie atmosphere in which things definitely feel unsafe. The unsettling score adds a great deal to the disquieting world that Vincensius creates.

Ida Gyllensten (left) and Demis Tzivis star as siblings whose past comes back to haunt them in the effective short Swedish chiller The Madame in Black.

The story is a basic urban-legend-come-to-life approach. Alex (Demis Tzivis) and his sister Emma (Ida Gyllensten) had played the “Madame in Black” game when they were children. This is a Swedish version of the “Bloody Mary” urban legend, where the youngsters called out the name of a centuries-dead witch three times. As the adult siblings gather at Emma’s house for her birthday with their significant others present, Alex recalls the events of that evening, and strange things begin to occur.

The Madame in Black creates a chilling atmosphere and then adds some solid scares to the mix. Cast members turn in good, believable performances, with the leads Demis Tzivis and Ida Gyllensten giving fine turns as the troubled brother and sister.

Writer/director/cinematographer Jarno Lee Vincensius does a splendid job with his use of light and shadow in this short film.

Only a very few things slightly hampered the short film for me. The first was the English subtitles, which could use a little cleaning up. Also, the use of dream sequences and a couple of seemingly disjointed elements confused things a bit on my initial watch. Overall, though, The Madame in Black successfully delivers a well-crafted short that delivers in the fright department.

When you have a chance to see The Madame in Black, be sure to keep watching after what looks like the closing titles. Something happens that takes the short from what seems to be a rather clichéd ending to its actual, more satisfying one.

3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.