It has been seventeen years since Robert Schwentke’s Tattoo, and due time that we had another proper ink-inspired horror. Clocking in at just under two minutes, The Tattooist fills the void and makes every second count.
Despite a narrative that suffers from the nature of short films, director Michael Wong designs every flash of a moment with brilliant intent and stunning precision. The experimental work sees a woman going prone for ink in ordinary tattoo parlour. Upbeat jazz puts up an inviting façade that soon takes a sharp turn into disquieting orchestration.
Arthouse aesthetics unleashes stylised gritty terror in the vein of the Splat Pack. Quick bursts of visceral imagery shove us into an inescapable descent into hell. From short gaps of silence escapes the soft spatter of blood, sharp sheathing of knives, and sinister screams of victims. Men and women cry through bonds and cages, clamouring for their stories to be told.
But it is not long before we have to leave them and return to the tattoo parlour. Nothing has changed, at least not on the surface. Yet the context of dim lights and sharp needles has been redefined entirely. Familiar tools now spell portent for what more is to come, assaulting all senses with the head-on impact of a full horror feature.
The Tattooist is currently making its rounds at the horror film festival circuit and has won several international accolades, including that of Canada’s Bloody Horror International Film Festival and Horrorhaus Film Festival in LA.
Special thanks to director Michael Wong for sharing this short film with me.