[Review] Maw (Muil) (FilmQuest 2018): Macabre Fantasies About Being Eaten Drive Artful Psychological Chiller

A dark journey into the mind of a man increasingly obsessed with the desire to be eaten by either animals or monsters, the Belgian horror short Maw (Muil) is a fascinating, unsettling psychological shocker that aims for an artistic approach rather than focusing on the lurid.

Matthieu Sys stars as Richard, a lonely elderly-care assistant  who spends his off-hours consumed by looking at images of animals, real and imagined, with their mouths wide open or devouring people. He meets a stranger named Max (Pascal Maetens) who shares his fantasies, and proves to Richard that he can make those fantasies a reality – for a price. Afraid to take that final step, Richard hires a prostitute (Myrthe Kramer as Ines) to try and play out his desires, but when this idea falls short, he decides to seek out Max once again.

Maw  (Muil) is  a Skladanowksy short directed by Jasper Vrancken, with Matthieu Sys (right) and Pascal Maetens.

Writer/director Jasper Vrancken manages to unnerve without showing any overt acts of violence or strongly graphic images. With a basement and its blood-soaked walls, images such as the open mouth of a hippopotamus, and the sound of a woman grunting like a wild animal, he plants enough visual and sound cues to get under the skin of viewers and then lets the focus on Richard’s troubled mind do the rest. Sys is captivating as a caring man at work but distraught loner at home. In a stirring scene with Kramer,  his simple, slight change of facial expression speaks volumes without a word being uttered. Maetens gives a fine turn as someone who empathizes with the protagonist’s pain and his desire for a highly unusual sort of pleasure.

Vrancken has crafted a creepy horror film without a villain, on-screen violence, or jump scares. This is true psychological horror, with body horror and other elements at play. Hyun De Grande’s striking cinematography finds beauty in ugliness.

Maw picked up the Best Foreign Short Award at FilmQuest at the Covey Center for the Arts and Velour Live Music Gallery in Provo, Utah, during the film festival’s September 8—16 run.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 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.