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Review: Jose Luis Anaya’s “DAMIAN” (A Short Film Beast Among Peasants)

Well, this will be one of the few times I have a lot to say about a short film. Jose Luis Anaya’s DAMIAN is quite simply a beast among peasants. Having completed my own viewing, it’s no surprise to me that DAMIAN has won dozens of awards around the world since it debuted in 2016; and it’s still achieving great feats in the film festival circuit today. Had it been released this year, it would undoubtedly top my “best short films” list that I post every January. Produced by Jose Luis Anaya, Miguel Angel Aguilar-Mancera and Omar Serrano Castillo, DAMIAN is a sexy, experimental bloodbath laced with drama and truly hair-raising hysteria. DAMIAN tells the twisted love story of a man named Damian, obviously, and a woman named Roxana; both of whom are harboring baggage, pain and mindful trauma. When Roxana deviates from their pre-determined path, it sets off a change of events that viewers won’t expect. I certainly didn’t! Written and directed by Jose Luis Anaya, DAMIAN stars David Negrete, Isabel Aerenlund, Montserrat Simo and Axel Fernandez.

WARNING: Spoilers to follow. The most surprising aspect of DAMIAN is that I didn’t expect the main character to be a vampire. It didn’t occur to me what was happening until a quarter-way through the short film. That’s expert film-making and story-telling when you can sneak such a big plot point past a viewer and shock them in their seat! It could have been because Damian starts the film in a straight-jacket, and those instantly give off an inhumane and creepy vibe, to the point that I was so focused on the torture he was enduring and not WHY he was enduring it in the first place. Though he’s currently in a mental hospital, his tragic love-story and downfall is told through a series of flashbacks that give this title a really experimental, artistic flair that isn’t channeled often in horror films. And even though DAMIAN was filmed in Mexico and features subtitles, the intensity is not lost on the viewer because this is a one of a kind, cinematic experience.

DAMIAN features cinematography by Gerardo Muniz and editing by Fernando Maganda. I don’t have a list of awards that its won, but I’d wager that it won a couple for cinematography alone. DAMIAN puts the majority of American-made short films to shame with its style, class and elegance. It’s truly a wonder to behold and one of the best looking titles I’ve seen this year. Everyone who worked behind-the-camera better have DAMIAN at the top of their resume because it’s a door-opener. The cast, though small, equally rivaled the talent behind-the-camera and turned in showstopping performances. David Negrete as Damian was a diabolical Romeo who played the perfect love-torn vampire; with all the blood-lust, sexuality, psychological games and emotional wit that one has to offer. Just an outstanding performance from him (and he’s pretty easy on the eyes…). Is Damian delusional and hallucinating that he’s a vampire after the world-shaking death of his lover, or is he a vampire facing eternity without his soul-mate? You really need to watch DAMIAN to find out. An unexpected, enthralling horror-drama from Jose Luis Anaya, and a film that raised the bar that all independent film-makers should try to hit. Wonderful job, everyone!

Final Score: 10 out of 10.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)