Full disclosure: The director of this short film contacted me to review his work. Regardless if you have read my about page, you will know that any opinions on any review or article are completely my own.
The Tattooist immediately struck me with its hypnotic colours and music. Even though this short film/trailer is only 1 minute and 20 seconds long (including credits), I was immediately intrigued by the storyline. I wanted to see more of what the story was behind the tattooist and his victims in this horror world.
The Tattooist starts off with a tattooist in his parlour, working on a tattoo for a female clinic. With upbeat music and a pink hue that colours the opening scene, it feels as if we are going to watch an artsy short film. This is shown by the flowery wallpaper and the beautiful tattoo shown on the woman’s back.
The camera pans over the woman’s body and the whole room, making us take in the beauty of the whole scene. But then there is a shift in tone and mood. We are taken abruptly to what appears to be a dark basement, where the tattooist tortures his many victims in gruesome and bloody ways. Then it ends with the last image of the tattooist dancing to the upbeat music
Even though as it is very short, there is a lot that is packed into that time, which shows the skill of the director and the actors in this. The contrast between the seemingly innocent tattoo scene to the torture of his victims is a powerful shift in gears. The director Michael Wong uses not only visual but also audio to achieve this effect targeting the two more important senses, making it a much more profound shift.
Even the camera work changes tone, with the more flowing scenes in the parlour and then flickering between short flashes to each victim in terror or pain. Michael Wong at least in this short film has mastered the skills to transition in a way that is shocking but also makes complete sense at the same time.
Also what stuck out to me, was that a lot of the actors who were portraying the victims, made their fear and terror seem very realistic. Even in big-budget horror movies, this is not always attained with the actors, which can take you out of the atmosphere that the film wants to build.
On the other side, we have the tattooist who is the grim reaper in the second half of this short but with the ending, there seems to be a bit of humour about it. I can only speculate on what the feature would be about, but as I said I would definitely love to see how Wong would combine these contrasting halves into a feature-length film.
There are many things that I love on each rewatch of this short film which I think is a testament to Michael Wong’s skill in cinematography. I know I would very much like to see what he could do with a longer format, especially if The Tattooist was ever made into a movie. For someone who has not made anything in the horror genre before, Wong definitely has a keen grasp on what makes the building blocks of good horror.
It is not only myself that is impressed by his work, this short film has been making the rounds across the horror film festival circuit and has received several international accolades. Watch the short film for yourself below!
The Tattooist by Michael Wong