I love creature features, especially creature features that are smart. It’s one of the more absurd genres of horror and one that’s been taken over by hurricane throwing sharks and multi-headed hybrids that have sucked even the slightest remnants of terror out of any movie about a giant monster attacking unsuspecting humans. On the flip side, if we rewind time a few decades, then we’re bombarded with mutant insect movies or Janet Leigh fighting gargantuan bunnies. You go from cheesy B-movie laughs to “what the fuck did I just watch” laughs without much depth and intrigue in between. Luckily for any other creature feature enthusiast, Lion is smart… and it sets the bench mark for future releases in its category. This is how creature features should be done in the modern age.
Lion is written and directed by Davide Melini under LV Hair LTD with Luca Visual FX. Luca Vannella (Harry Potter), Alexis Continente (Thor), Vincenzo Mastrantonio (Titanic), Bobby Holland (“Game of Thrones”), Ferdinando Merolla (Hannibal Rising) and Roberto Paglialunga served as producers and Pedro Sanchez, Michael Segal, Yolanda Hernandez and Tania Mercader star. Lion tells the story of a small family in the snowy wilderness of Spain as they become the recipients of a lion attack one night. This twelve minute horror-drama is delicately wrapped in the metaphor of child abuse that culminates in a story with a lot of extra bite. It’s basically The Ghost and the Darkness except they’re in Spain and you hate all the characters and want the lion to walk away with a full belly. And if you’re asking how the lion ends up in another country, you’ll just have to watch and find out for yourself!
Dissecting Lion as a production, I take you back to my previous sentiments of it being smart. A lot of intelligent decisions were made behind-the-scenes from an incredible team that helped this short film become a future hit at film festivals. You get a lot of lions on television, documentaries and such, so it re-paints the picture of the cat god for you while building the story. Menacing eyes, huge claws, and a ferocious roar, this is what we see when the predator attacks but only for the slightest moments. This is because the better shots are saved for the end of the film and the lion does get one killer reveal. The visual effects are absolutely astounding, as is the rest of the short, and it’s a tactic that will take old school horror fans back to the idea of less is more. Sometimes you don’t have to see the killer to be afraid of them and their power over you. While the deaths happen mostly off camera, I don’t mind this at all because it kept the lion from being over-used on screen. And, really, all cats are predators and experts of stealth… He wouldn’t be walking around all willy-nilly so much as he’d be hunting and waiting. This also demonstrates that Davide Melini has a clear understanding of his protagonist as an animal as well as it demonstrates his ability to adapt a compelling, dramatic story. Go, lion. Go!
I struggle to find any criticisms here, but I can’t find any accept that the voices don’t always match with the mouths. However, watching through the credits I discovered this is because of dubbing. Maybe a little improv would remedy this in the future so it isn’t as noticeable? Lion has impressive visual effects, but it also contains really good scenes of practical effects gore. The location is simple yet effective, a family home where all is supposed to be safe and well is actually the least safe place on earth that night. Michael Segal showcases impressive acting chops (and muscles) and steals the show with his aggressive performance. And there’s really no flaws on the editing side of things. Audio and lighting is on point, too. I think Lion’s going to do really well in the market because its roar matches the bite. It’s a short, cinematic movie that baits you with a sad, realistic theme and subtle suspense… and then it pounces into a charging lion of a horror movie filled with a cat and mouse game to die for. A slow start to a roaring finish that’ll make audiences cheer with delight. Simple, effective, smart and suspenseful. Those are the key words I’d use to describe Davide Melini’s Lion. It’s clawing its way to film festivals as we speak, so catch it if you see it on a line-up near you!