Black Horror Films: Bango (2017)
Written by Comika Hartford
Directed by Eric Shapiro
I had a in-my-20's type of decade that was probably pretty typical. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do for a living, who my extended family of friends were going to be, bouncing around socially, much more open and patient with people, beginning to grapple with who I was emotionally, and even spent a considerable amount of time in college successfully navigating and curating the best education I was putting a lot of money and resources in to get the maximum benefit for my later years. In my kernel of not having some stern plan, I spent a lot of time with friends in their early 30's, extending time, money, and energy into cheerleading for their paths, and in retrospect, gaining little in return. And by the time I was literally 30, I had had enough and cut ties, wiping the slate clean and beginning to truly find my own voice and live my own life.
In the horror short Bango, you find a snippet of that break. But it's much more darker and ambiguous as the cut and dry of my personal modus operandi of walking away when relationships really do expire. Bango can and does act as a catharsis. All of that care and love and people's actions only expose their selfish desires, we've all wanted to explode from the toxicity of the realization.
Bango uses this sort of universal experience and the emotion on the receiving end as an examination of the extremely fragile break from reality and rationalization. The extent that we think of or maybe even go to, fueled by the emotions of anger, betrayal, and resentment to enact some of sort justice to time lost. "I'm not some kind of victim" are words to be examined with a fluid nuance that writer/lead actress Comika Hartford as Sam (short for Samantha) brings to this film. Sam is anxious yet polite, charming yet reserved, bubbly yet unsettling. She's the dotting housewife to Aaron (Richard Caines) that for all intents and purposes seems as if he's been catered to his entire life. That by "innocently" manipulating communication in order to get his way, it's morally acceptable because no one is actively challenging his desires. The suffocating discomfort that chokes on the awkwardness of this questionable marriage really unravels when kind-hearted Chris (Rhoda Jordan Shapiro) is there for a night, an artsy-type millennial who is a contrast to the sterile Ozzie and Harriet routine that Aaron and Samantha are led by.
Bango convolutes ideas of tradition, marriage, and gender roles. This is far from uncommon in horror, specifically horror films created by women yet this still reads as fresh, intriguing, and elevated by the direction and performances. The soft light and a gentle, piano lullaby is purposefully seductive. It plays upon a very common imprint in horror; mystery and suspense. Within the safety of moments of pleasant conversation and a pristine, upper-middle class house, therein lies a dangerous surreality and feels like it will eventually produce a much more tragic reality than the one currently threatening to bubble over. Director Eric Shapiro builds on camera work that places you inside of the physical and emotional confusion, conflict, and control that Sam experiences throughout its 12 minutes. It's beautiful and creepy how Sam's story unfolds. At once a sad and emboldened figure, she leaves much to desire towards the end where you will endlessly question her overall position, not just on the circumstance at hand, but her life as a whole.
Comika on Twitter (@blamethewriter)