By Kassandra Sharma
Rhett S. Butler’s Nefarious recently premiered at the CaribbeanTales Film Festival 2020. With Jamaican Night: Boomflikbeing the theme, Nefarious allowed the audience to be encapsulated in a horror tale filled with love, betrayal, local lore and just the right amount of twists and turns to make your blood boil.
With the opening scene of a blazing car crash, a sad news report of all occupants perishing in the fire, and the screen completely flushed in black and red gives the instant expectation that this may not be a happy ending tale and a lasting ominous feeling afterward ensures the thought.
The story follows Mark (Kevoy Williams), struggling to navigate through life and focus on his studies. His best friend Dwight (Russell Anderson) and girlfriend Keisha (Calicia Robinson) notice changes in his recent behaviour, acting out of character from his usual level headed, good-guy self. The reason: his new relationship and growing affections for Natasha (Ana-Stassia McLeish), who seems to be continuously consuming Mark’s time, energy and thoughts. We can see the red flags almost instant - Dwight considering Natasha a freak only to get dismissed. Later the two get robbed along with Mark’s aunt who is carrying his tuition money. The next red flag Andrew (Allan Tennent), Natasha’s brother who right from the get go we see is aggressively peer-pressuring Mark into the idea the siblings are a ‘package deal’. Later when Mark meets up Andrew and his friends, they pressure him into smoking and drinking an unknown substance that appears to be blood. A sip later, Mark hears a voice in the dark call his name – only to be mocked by his company. He is then offered a gun; being told that revenge can be his for being robbed earlier.
This is the start to Mark’s continuous descent into darkness.
As the movie progresses, we witness Mark’s worsening ordeal due to his poor decisions. Only until he visits his mother who feels the evil presence. It is out in the open and we get to see an obeah man perform an exorcism of sorts on Mark to help release the evil. Obeah is a spiritual practice developed among African slaves in the Caribbean. However, this proves insufficient in stopping Mark from continuing his old ways, striking a domino effect. In addition, we get too see the ripples of each character’s actions and how they all intertwine – each time a shocking revelation.
The horrors of Nefarious, set in Jamaica will definitely cast its charms on even the most culturally unfamiliar soul.
However, the film is not without its drawbacks. The quick switch and overplay of varied camera angles, particularly in the scene where Mark meets Andrew for the first time, is one such example. There is a lot of back and forth between characters and often the camera changes which each exchange, making for choppy scene. Poor lighting is also a notable issue in certain frames. While the film also has a complex flow of characters, working behind each other’s backs, we do not follow right away all the revelations occurring in the final parts of the film. As a result all seemed too rushed nonetheless tied together. However, one particular mention would be of female demon in the frame- the shorts were not pretty to watch which made it all the more glorious. Captured in a rather creepy and menacing manner, the demon surely made skin’s crawl. Couldn’t wait for her to get off the screen because she was so unnerving.
Overall, Nefarious did an excellent job of not falling victim to horror cliches and really left us all wondering; in a real-life nightmare, love can be a cure, but does it really conquer all?