With the Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival (aka PUFF) being underway, I was happy to check out films for this festival’s 2nd annual go round. A lot of great films were selected this year, showcasing many that I recognize, along with a bunch that were knew to me. Being eager to get started, my first pick was CHARISMATA, a psychological horror film that caught my attention immediately.
Written and directed by Andy Collier and Toor Mian, CHARISMATA depicts an up and coming detective named Rebecca (Sarah Beck Mather), who’s hunting a ritualistic serial killer, leaving a gruesome wake of bodies behind him. Along with her partner Eli (Andonis Anthony), Rebecca must remain on the suspect’s tail while battling her own demons and bridging the gap between reality and fantasy.
This film balances nicely between a traditional crime drama and a psychological thriller, with satanic undertones. Its black but dry humor steadily brings you forward and deeper into the story, creating a mysterious atmosphere for the viewer. The diluted lines between Rebecca’s damaged psyche and crime case thin to the point of becoming one, showcasing a fragile world where nothing may even be factual. The mind of a rationalist becomes challenged through the horrific (and possibly spiritual) murder scenarios placed before her, relying only on her skewed judgment to solve these bizarre crimes.
With notable acting from a great cast of characters, CHARISMATA showcases great performances throughout the film. The suspected killer by the name of Michael Sweet (Jamie Satterthwaite) catches your attention with his smug confidence, yet charming demeanor. As an audience member, your gut highly implies that he’s the killer from start to finish, but still remain very unsure. Sarah Beck Mather, who plays Rebecca, delivers this role flawlessly through her ability to represent both strength and weakness. Her partner Eli, Played by Andonis Anthony appears as the only helpful and strong presence in conjunction to Rebecca, with the rest of the task force reminding me a bit of the goofy and sarcastic police officers from Hot Fuzz. This film revolves around uncertainty and dysphoric sightings, making it hard to read between the lines of fact and fiction, and each actor helps bring that to life.
Though finding certain elements in direction (and the ending) to be a little unusual, I recommend seeing CHARISMATA if given the chance. This black comedy is shot very well, containing a great plot and cast, with a handful of gruesome sequences. It provokes the audience to question their surroundings through both a rational and spiritual sense, delving into the fragility of one’s sanity and focuses on the mental and environmental aspects that cause it to fracture.