One of the first rules of the occult is “Never summon that which you cannot banish.” Clive Peterson (Mike Ossedryver), whose wife Ana (Jill Young) languishes in a coma with no known physical cause, must have missed that bit of information when perusing his vast library of arcane rites and demonology. In writer-director’s Sasha Sibley’s short horror film THE PAINTED, Clive performs a ritual to draw out the demon he believes to be inhabiting his wife’s body. It works a little too well, and Clive must do battle with the entity to save his wife from her metaphysical ailment.
The film’s title refers to “spirit painting,” in which one can summon the dead through portrait painting. It’s an intriguing premise that THE PAINTED makes wonderful use of: Clive sets out bowls of paint and calls forth the spirit terrorizing his wife, and the special effects when the demon becomes material on the canvas are mesmerizing. Menacing tendrils of paint rise and congeal into an oppressive sludge, which then ripples with life as the demon comes into full view. Sibley wisely spends most of the film’s brief runtime on this summoning ritual, because it is a tense, eerie scene that leaves the viewer breathless.
The whole film is smart and economical in its frights. The demon (Victoria Strange) has a marvelous creature design, relying less on CGI effects and more on suspenseful framing and effective (if slightly derivative) jump scares. The ending is satisfying and disturbing, offering few surprises but still presenting a solid tale of demonic possession. THE PAINTED is a creepy and suspenseful horror short, using a fascinating bit of occult lore and impressive visual effects to explore the lengths people will go to in order to save the ones they care about most. Love and desperation can be a very dangerous combination, THE PAINTED warns…and never summon that which you cannot banish.