Black Women In Horror: Paralysis (2016) Movie Review

A photographer suffering from a sleep disorder experiences strange occurrences in her apartment which begin to blur the line between reality and the supernatural.

Written & Directed by R. Shanea Williams (@rshanea722)

That isn't the best summary. But after you get a chance to see Paralysis for yourself, you'll thank me. Assessing a film usually benefits a reader by offering very little information. Magnify this sentiment when considering a short. Many of my musings about films at any length rely heavily on a "post-mortem" chat where the revelation of plot beats prompt wider insight on any given topic it inspires. What can be challenging is discussing clues as to what you may experience that reveal just enough to feign interest in the overall narrative and how it might make you feel. Paralysis is one of those films.

Nia Fairweather as the protagonist Jessica displays a level of vulnerability I wish we got to see more. How she could easily be labeled as "terminally distant and fragile" must be unpacked because we get to see this character (a Black woman at that) being someone we simultaneously empathize, find strength in solidarity, and crave to comfort with. Additionally, her interactions with her father (DK Bowser) lean on the protective parental trope that we see Jessica subtly fight against. Her autonomy is what is crucial to her existence, even if it means battling the disturbing episodes we witness on her terms. Upon closer look, Jessica is allowed to experience this fascinating range. And as horror/suspense films dictate, allowing for immense complexity and ambiguity.

We're invited into her world with a pristine balance of overt and nuanced touches of who she is and her current, emotional station. Decorum, routine, and very brief conversations steeped in denial and performance are signals to the well paced intensity of Jessica spiral. With all of this weight in just under 20 minutes, expect the effectiveness of modern horror to offer no answers. Such as the world of uncertainty we inhabit.

Much like Williams' previous effort Contamination, Jessica's isolation is the strength of the narrative because it commands our focus and introspection. If we're more prone to seclusion, do we fear the repercussions of our tender sanity? If we are revived by massive stimulation, how much is too much before we wonder if being alone for a period is necessary or desirable? Is it all in her head? Or is there something not of this existence trying her emotional delicacy?

To say that Williams' gift for vision is an understatement. Paralysis is a quiet piece, fueled by names known such as Hitchcock and Kubrick (even Argento), but slams with Williams' own trademark artistry that I hope to see continue to shine masterfully. The commitment and impact of Black women and intersections that add mental ailments in genre film are images and stories that are desperately needed.

Paralysis is currently on the film festival circuit. To find out if it's screening near you, visit the Facebook page or Vision 75/80 Productions

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