What’s a young girl to do when she has a mother that isn’t big on communication and interaction, a teen sister who worships H.P. Lovecraft’s fictional Old Gods, her father has recently passed away — and she begins seeing a strange, frightening creature outside her window? Writer/director O.B. De Alessi explores these questions and others in their Italian horror/fantasy short Mudmonster (2021), which won the awards for Best Lovecraft-Inspired Short Film and Best International Short Film Director for De Alessi at the recent Australian film festival A Night of Horror.
Fiamma (Mariandrea Cesari) spends a good deal of her time in her bedroom creating small monsters from mud, as other children might do from clay or a similar compound. When the titular creature begins staring at her through her window, she is initially frightened but soon starts suffering from physical ailments. Her mother Emma (Laura Bombonato) is otherwise occupied, and her sister Alba (Noa Zatta) rarely leaves her room where she plays loud music except for the occasional quoting of Lovecraft lines. Emma is basically left to her own devices, and that can’t be good for anyone.
De Alessi has done a fine job of bringing classic Italian gothic horror into the present in a timeless tale of childhood alienation, mystery, and wonder, as Fiamma suddenly finds herself immersed in a world of the unexplainable. The tone of Mudmonster combines a looming sense of unease and dread with a touch of fantasy. The family’s home and its muddy surroundings are gorgeously designed and framed, with fine cinematography from Piero Cioffi capturing the beautiful and the ghastly.
Fans of 1960s and 1970s gothic Italian fright fare, and anyone who appreciates eerie, eldritch films, should put Mudmonster high on their need-to-see lists as it makes its way along the festival circuit.(4 / 5)
Mudmonster screened as part of Australia’s A Night of Horror International Film Festival, which ran online from October 18–31, 2021.