Among the many indie horror shorts I've seen thus far in 2017, Jarno Lee Vinsencius's The Madame in Black is one of the best, a gothic and horrifying work of wonder that has picked up at least 27 awards during its 2017 festival run amongst its nearly 40 nominations.
While The Madame in Black lacks the originality of Vinsencius's last short, Darkness Falls, the film more than makes up for it with top notch production values throughout and an award-winning ensemble cast that seems perfectly in tune with exactly where Vinsencius is going in every moment.
The film centers around a brother and sister, Alex and Emma, who are spied early in their childhood flirting with an urban legend, The Madame in Black. While their initial flirtation certainly causes the heebie jeebies, when The Madame in Black flashes forward to Alex (Demis Tzivis) and Emma (Ida Gyllensten) as adults possessing that same relentless curiosity it becomes crystal clear that this isn't likely to end very well.
Vinsencius lenses the film himself, one of multiple cost-saving factors that likely explains how the talented filmmaker was able to produce such a top notch product for an estimated $4,000 budget (US dollars). Vinsencius's lensing is extraordinarily gothic yet pristine and mood-setting. It's clear that Vinsencius started this project with a clear vision and maintained that vision throughout. At 24 minutes, The Madame in Black could have easily felt like it was lingering too long but, instead, it feels just absolutely perfect in terms of timing and pacing. Noted makeup effects artist Ellinor Rosander does remarkable work in creating The Madame in Black, while kudos must also be given for the film's original music and, well, just about every other aspect of the film.
Both Tzivis and Gyllensten give remarkable performances here, though Vinsencius deserves credit for casting even the smaller roles incredibly well. Tzivis and Gyllensten may very well be front and center, but The Madame in Black truly features an ensemble effort.
The Madame in Black is suspenseful, scary and anxiety inducing even in bringing to life a story that feels somewhat familiar. Vinsencius takes the ideas presented in some new directions and everything gels together to near perfection.
For more information on The Madame in Black, visit the film's Facebook page linked to in the credits.