The director of Chromophobia wanted to receive honest feedback and get a deeper understanding of how the viewers interpret his film.
Age - 22
Gender - Male
Profession - Film and Creative Industries Tutor
Did you like the film?
Anything you'd like more of?
More of the whole thing really!
It’s a very strong concept that had me completely engaged the whole way through. I loved the set design and art direction. I could only imagine how these would go to greater heights, given a larger budget.
And then, of course, more time to flesh out our main cast and introduce some more side characters. I’ll admit that although I found the story to be very engaging, I didn’t find the characters as compelling as I’d hoped they would be. I’ll get into this more further into the feedback, but overall, I didn’t think we were given much time to sit with them and explore their characters. It’s a tough thing to pull off a deep dive in a short film and still maintain a mysterious, unfolding story so clearly a feature-length would help tremendously with that.
Side characters would obviously help to flesh out these characters as well, giving them other people to interact with. I think it would have also helped with your mystery. Unfortunately, we are in a society that tends to put male pronouns first. So instantly when you have a figure in silhouette and then tell the audience it’s a woman, it’s a bit of a curveball to expectations. Then add on to that that there aren’t any female characters in the film, it’s not difficult to figure out exactly who Arthur is referring to when he draws a woman in “his” studio.
In general, pacing is one of the film’s largest stuggles, I thought. During the sequence of Arthur beginning his drawings and during the final sequence of Arthur telling Haver he knows about all the suicides in her life, it felt like the film was pulling me along and I just wanted to stay awhile and take in each moment. Even scenes like the first time we see Arthur, there’s this gorgeously framed shot that makes great use of negative space and I just wanted to take that in. But then it cuts away quite quickly. I’m lucky enough to be able to pause it, watching it online but if I was to watch this at a festival, I might have missed that gorgeous scene completely.
Were there any moments/scenes you particularly liked? (Please list and explain)
As I’ve mentioned, I think the first shot of the main psychiatry room is gorgeous and very effective in creating a bit of an other-worldy atmosphere. The film has a clear sense of mapping different areas by colour and I loved the effect that the green in this room has. Especially since it wasn’t something I noticed straight away.
In a similar vein, I really enjoyed the scenes of Jennifer in the elevator. I love seeing yellows used in film and in yours, it does a great job of cementing that feeling of isolation and emotional distance that Jennifer attempts to place on herself before heading to meet patients. And from a colour theory perspective, I enjoyed the idea of Jennifer travelling from this blue room (stained red) into a green room using a yellow elevator. Stuff like that tickles me.
Arthur has some great lines in this and I wanted to point out “I musn’t give in to colour so easily” as my favourite. It’s wonderfully weird and the delivery is spot on.
The reveal of the pictures of the hospital in the studio was definitely one of the pivotal moments of the film. As I’ve said, I think you had a tendency to rush in this film but for this scene, the reveal feels very well-timed. The music here also fits very well. It’s an excellent reveal and I think you’d have audiences eating out of your hands during this part.
I think with a film called chromoPHOBIA, we know going in there’s at least going to be one scene that is filled with colour. So watching the red hallway scene was a bit more “Oh, here it is” for me, but then walking into the pale blue room held such a great contrast. It looked amazing on screen. I’ll get into it, but I have quite a few issues with that room and its lighting but it won me back over quite a bit when we get to see the light highlighting Jennifer’s side silhouette at 10:37. A beautiful shot that seamlessly takes us into another beautiful shot. That wall mural of the studio, with the blood and the added noose was breathtaking. Great stuff and I’d love to see that scene, especially, done again at the next level.
Were there any moments/scenes you particularly disliked, or felt didn't work? (Please list and explain)
I’ve already mentioned pacing issues and I don’t want to double down on those too much, as I doubt you’d find it helpful. But I do want to point out that you barely give your audience a moment to breathe after the reveal of Jennifer’s mother’s suicide before you have Arthur also talk about Jennifer’s own. I’m not overly mad at this as I think sometimes you want to keep your audience completely off-balance. But I did find issue with showing a shot of Jennifer hanging in the studio. Not because of the graphic imagery but just because it shows her in the studio. Showing that makes it feel more real, and gives your audience less of a reason to question it, I feel. I think it would have served you better used after the reveal of the mural, just giving your audience those last couple minutes to keep questioning on their own before they’re given any more answers.
In regards to your opening, visually, it’s great. You clearly have a sense for knowing what will look good on screen and the direction and cuts in this opening sequence are also very sharp. But I feel that you did yourself a complete disservice through how you scored the scene. This is a recurring issue I had during your film, but I want to highlight the opening in particular as it is what sets the tone for the rest of your film. I’ll say again, that the visual direction for this opening is great. So good that it can speak for itself. Your choice of theme here is an extremely heavy and overstated piece of music. It definitely screams horror. But, I don’t think it works for a slow introduction like yours. Had you played this scene mostly silent, only with the sounds of the clock ticking and the pencil shaving, it would have been much more ominous. In a psychological horror, I want to be able to think for myself and hear myself think. I don’t want to be screamed at and told to be scared.
The score then goes on to use noise, the classic thuds that audiences now find synonymous with drama. For me, the use and the timing especially, of this effect ruined the shock of that first shot of blood. I wanted to be thinking to myself “WTF?!” but the score normalises it. In film, themes should be used to underline and highlight the action on screen. But certain visuals can do all by themselves and I found your score to dilute the scene, not highlight it.
I also had this same issue again following the “They’re waiting for you in my studio” line. In general, I found this shot a bit too on the nose. Jennifer’s reaction here looks like Arthur’s sentenced her to death and the, again, overstated music supports that. Yes, it’s a horror and yes, we know something bad is going to happen in that house. But does the character and do you need to leave absolutely no question of that?
Final point on sound and the score. It often blocks out voiceovers. The voiceovers aren’t well mixed enough to stand out against the score. And it’s such a heavy, bassy bit of music that, for me at least, it made whenever it crossed over with a voiceover (fairly often) to make the voices sound mumbled and unclear.
Last point, although a bit of a big one again, the use of the main hospital room. As I’ve said, when we have the final scene in there, it really worked in the ways it was needed to. But in every other scene it’s used in, not so much. In that first scene, Wilkins’s blood looks very fake. It’s not easy to produce realistically looking blood on white sheets. Clearly there’s an element to that presentation that’s a technical issue for the art/makeup department. But I’d argue it’s also an issue with the lighting in that scene/room. The bright light and the light blue filter absorb the red, rather than contrasting. You do improve upon this for the bathroom scene, where the blood stands out a lot more. I’m going to guess, because that room didn’t have a very large window letting in bright light, unlike the hospital room.
In general, I do wonder if you wouldn’t have created a greater effect by using a much sharper shade of blue or perhaps a different colour entirely to fit that room. Although the blue worked very well, when walking in from a deep red hallway, scenes in that room otherwise look a bit muted. We’re first introduced to that room through a suicide (and it is a hospital) and if this were a drama, I’d say that using blue to create that sadness and empty feeling was a fitting choice. But this is horror. The audience expects death and we don’t necessarily want/need to be sad about it. During the reveal of the hospital scene, you nicely draw parallels between the pictures found there and shots of the room itself. And the room, and the blood on the bed, do not pop or stand up to the dark picture of the hospital room with the painted blood. Definitely think that could have been executed better.
Were there any moments you felt annoyed or frustrated by the movie? (Please list and explain)
I was the most frustrated with the use of heavy overstated horror music, which you might have noticed by how much I wrote about it. But yes, in particularly, when I had to play back scenes several times to make out what a character’s voiceover had said. I wouldn’t be able to do this watching it on a cinema screen.
Were you confused at any given time? (Please list and explain)
Nah, I was never confused. I have a preferred interpretation and I can think of others.
If this film was going to be expanded into a feature film, what part of the story would interest you to see expanded most? Please explain why.
Dr. Haver’s life. We know very little about her, given just the context of this short film. I would like to see a feature film explore more into the relationship, of someone who has gone through that kind of child trauma, has with suicide. How that affects their ability to give professional care and what toll that takes on their own mental health.
How would you explain Arthur's character?
Well, in the short, Arthur is a bit relegated to being ominous and delivering forboding lines. Carroll does give us a great performance and I think he sells the character more through his physicality. He’s not erratic but he has a nervous energy to him. He can’t sit completely still and he never looks comfortable. In his presence, others are made uncomfortable, And part of that comes from seeming disturbed and obsessive. As well as his uncanny ability to appear omniscient.
It’s not until the last few scenes that we begin to see a more dangerous edge to his character. Particularly in regards to his relationship with Jennifer. In the mirror he appears as a spectre-like figure and when he presents Jennifer with this image of her own suicide, he grins wickedly. This suggests a malovelent side of him that takes joy in the idea of self-harm. Perhaps a visual representation for the idea of harming one’s self that originally starts as unresponsive but grows the more attention that’s given to it. Eventually morphing into something much more aggressive and destructive.
How would you explain Arthur's powers and what part of his power would you like to see more of?
As they’re presented in first half of the film, Arthur seems to have the ability to cause misfortune/death to people by drawing them using colour. Perhaps specifically, his own blood. But we only see and hear of deaths related to Dr. Haver which suggests that he either has abilities that link very specifically to her or there’s a more abstract explanation for his apparent abilities. The most likely conclusion being that he isn’t quite real.
For a psychological horror, I always like it when things are played out intimately. It’s very easy to lose track and for things to become a mess if a huge string of things start happening on a grand scale. I think we see as much of Arthur’s “powers” as I’d ideally want to see. What I would have liked to see more of, is Dr. Haver’s reaction to Arthur’s powers and then if her bosses or co-workers would become involved.
What do you think is happening with Dr. Haver's character?
Well, either we take all events we see on screen as have happened, which would suggest she’s dead and undergoing some sort of psychosis in the last moments of her life. Or she’s perhaps recovering in hospital herself and the events of the film are in some way distorted from reality or take place entirely inside of her own head.
If we take the scenes of Dr. Haver’s suicide to be just a vision implanted into her head, then it’s more likely that she’s dealing with someone who has a way of getting into her head. Dr. Haver is clearly very affected by suicide in her personal life and seems to specifically work with patients who have harmed themselves and are on watch. She needs to mentally prepare herself in the elevator anytime she goes down to speak with her patients, so that she can retain a closed-off professional persona. This persona breaks down when she’s confronted with someone who seemingly offers another explanation to suicide than poor mental health. Something she’s likely happy to believe in since it will take the pressure off of her. Her first line about how she should have been able to see the signs also apply to her mother. She blames her childhood self for not being able to see the signs and prevent it from happening. Arthur offers a way to purge her soul and rid herself of her own grief but to believe this, then she’s faced with the idea that either she has or she will commit suicide herself. It’s an awful situation no matter what angle you look at it from.
If Arthur's character were a figment of Dr. Haver's psyche and Dr. Haver was actually a patient — would you find this to be a predictable story twist?
It’s a very literary twist. The ability to play with a narrative that is entirely from one character’s perspective. Perhaps now made most famous by Fight Club but was just recently done (more or less) in Last Christmas. And, speaking of the latter, I and many others figured that twist out after one trailer. So, ultimately, yes, I do think it’s predictable. But I don’t think there’s anything hugely wrong with predictable, so long as it’s well-executed. I’d always prefer a predictable but well-crafted twist to a messy one that I didn’t see coming.
Is there a direction the story might go that you would suggest would be very unexpected?
Even if Arthur was a real person with superhuman abilities, that subversive twist has also started being done more and more frequently. Made most famous by M.Night’s Unbreakable. It would be more unexpected but I suppose the most unexpected twist would be that the film is set in reality and that Arthur and Dr Haver are both human with no super powers. Perhaps Arthur is an expert mentalist or just a particularly devoted stalker, but going down that route would involve spending more time and energy into coming up with a solid explanation. Something that wouldn’t be easily done and that audiences are more likely to find devisive, if it’s not airtight.
It’s a tricky choice to make but it just depends what aspect of the story is the most important to you and what kind of story do you actually want to tell.
Any other comments or feelings about the film?
I had already seen this film earlier this year on Alter’s YT page. The response there has clearly been pretty good and I’m sure you’ve gotten a ton of feedback already, but I do hope you found this helpful. And then, just best of luck with your journey and this film. I’ll be sure to keep my eyes out for any news!