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[Fantasia ’21] ‘Aria’ review: Horror short teases interesting ideas

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Aria is a short that is part of the Small Gauge Trauma horror lineup at the Fantasia Film Festival. The story visits an oft visited theme in science fiction. Here, a couple has installed an Alexa type system into their home. After going through the normal difficulty of setting the system up, everything seems good. Predictably, it turns out things are not quite what they seem.

The plot does not deal with the normal adjustment of incorporating technology. There is no debate about the merits of Aria and no period of getting acclimated. There are some scenes that establish the couple have to get used to the new electronic presence in their home, but the tech is not a foreign being in the world. It is a nice change that takes away the idea of being wowed by or forced to accept everyday changes.

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[Fantasia '21] 'Aria' review: Horror short teases interesting ideas

This also allows Aria to get to the theme of the story. It is not so much about the intrusion of technology in our lives – though that can certainly be gleaned from the situation. The short is a straightforward horror movie about something strange happening at night. There are mysterious sounds and images and Aria even has HAL-like moments. It is filled with tension, but it is hard not to think there is a missed opportunity.

The revelation is a neat one that comes out of nowhere, but the film does little with it. The audience can ponder what Aria is trying to say, but the closing moments seem to hint it is just a spooky movie. The final shot underscores this and leaves a feeling of “am I supposed to think there is too much technology or are people just afraid of what it can do?” Either is fine, but frustratingly, the film decides to not pick a side.

The Fantasia Film Festival takes place in person and online from August 5 – August 25


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