[Review] Tale of the Deaf [SLASH Film Festival]: Mesmerizing Russian Black-and-White Short Is a Gorgeous Gothic Horror

Writer/director Philipp Yuryev’s Russian short Tale of the Deaf is one of the most visually extraordinary films of this year. Shot in sumptuous black-and-white by director of photography Mikhail Kasaya, this gothic chiller is a diabolical delight.

A deaf man (Russian rapper Husky) tries to entertain a tavern full of paupers with shadow play but receives a decidedly unkind reception. A mysterious organ grinder (Anton Adasinsky) enters the place, pet lizard in tow, and proceeds to play a song that makes the clientele hallucinate grandiose visions. The deaf man remains unaffected by the music as the situation for the patrons grows increasingly worse.

Yuryev sets the film in an unspecified past, but one that would fit in well with the past imagined by Edgar Allan Poe in such stories as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death.” The set decoration and costume design range from squalid to elegant, with Yuryev framing the proceedings in breathtaking shots.  

Adasinksy and Husky are both terrific in their lead roles, in what is basically a silent film with neither dialogue nor interstitial title cards. Their facial expressions and body movements forward the story in a wonderful example of pure cinema. The cast members who play the tavern goers — many who are first-time actors — also turn in fine work.    

Yuryev’s Tale of the Deaf is a hypnotic, grand work that recalls the macabre horror of yesteryear. It is a cinematic achievement that fear-fare fans should consider required viewing.

4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Tale of the Deaf screens as part of SLASH Film Festival, which runs in Vienna, Austria, from September 23–October 3, 2021.

The short is also available to watch online below.

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.