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[Review] Death Walks on Nitrate (Portland Horror Film Festival): Giallo and the Supernatural Meld in Hallucinatory Horror Short

Old-school film stock and classic giallo techniques combine in writer/director Kevin Fermini’s horror short Death Walks on Nitrate. The result is a trippy, beautiful looking slice of cinema with an eerie aesthetic.

Katie Carpenter (Disengaged from Gruesome Magazine’s own Christopher G. Moore and The Haunting of Hill House are among her 20 horror film credits) stars as Rose, a photographer who captures people in uncomfortable situations. When she develops photos of an old woman (Sasha Friedman) who she photographed in a park, her darkroom becomes a nightmare world of the supernatural. 

Fermini shot Death Walks on Nitrate on Kodak Super 8mm film, and it looks gorgeous. His eye for giallo ambience and lighting techniques is spot on, and the film stock gives the short an authentic retro feel. Dream Division’s synthesizers and jazz score fits the film perfectly.

The short is free of dialogue, relying on visuals and near-silent performances to drive the story. Both Carpenter and Friedman are up to the task on the latter, Carpenter with her expressive eyes in extreme close-ups and facial expressions that wonderfully convey her character’s emotions, and Friedman giving a memorable turn as well. Jack Warner’s sound design adds another layer of creepiness to the proceedings. He also edited the short along with Fermini, and they turn in splendid work in that department, as well.

Running right around the 7-minute mark before ending credits roll, Death Walks on Nitrate delivers a lot of paranormal strangeness and some nifty practical effects. Fermini and his cast and crew have crafted a fun, unique horror short that blends analog techniques and a classic fear-fare subgenre with modern sensibilities. 

Death Walks on Nitrate screened as part of Portland Horror Film Festival’s virtual edition, which ran June 10 and June 17–21. It is also scheduled for Arrow Video FrightFest’s Short Film Showcase from August 27–31.

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 "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He 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.
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 "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" print magazine and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, Ghastly Grinning, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Decades of Horror: The Classic Era" and "Uphill Both Ways" podcasts. Joseph has also written for “Scream” magazine, "Filmfax" magazine, “SQ Horror” magazine, and the websites That's Not Current an HorrorNews.net. He 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.