An abused little boy retreats to a fantasy world in writer/director Davide Melini’s U.K. short horror film Lion, but his violent, drunkard father and intimidated mother (Tania Mercader as Amanda) come face to face with a harsh reality. Lion is still on its film festival run, and has claimed more than 263 awards so far, making it the most-awarded short horror film in history.
After hard-drinking father Jeff (Michael Segal) subjects his son Leon (Pedro Sanchez) to what seems to be the latest of many verbally and physically abusive attacks, he slugs down more alcohol while glued to the television. Leon, whose obsession with lions — he has many toys, posters, and other items depicting his favorite animal — irritates his father, heads to his room and makes a wish that his parents would never beat him again. Their isolated cabin, deep in snowy woods, is about to be visited by a deadly presence.
Though only about 10 minutes long minus credits, Lion succeeds in fleshing out its characters enough so that viewers instantly sympathize with Leon and have an idea of what his unfortunate family circumstances are like. Besides solid characterization, the short offers some super practical gore effects, and a nice dose of suspense. Some CG effects don’t hold up as well as the practical ones; however, these moments are few, and don’t detract from the overall impact of the film.
Melini’s well-crafted short takes a fantasy approach to the real-life horror of child abuse, but the director has a strong message to kick off the closing credits. Though horror films can be sheer entertainment, efforts like Lion show that they can also be a voice for the greater good.(4 / 5)