Eye For Film >> Movies >> Pareidolia (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Where do all the ghosts, monsters and other peculiar creatures which inhabit the films we see at Frightfest originate? At least part of the answer lies in pareidolia, the human tendency to perceive meaningful patterns in random visual data. In particular, we see faces, a product of our need to quickly identify real ones in order to escape predators in the wild. Sinead (Diane Franklin) is a university lecturer who has recently stepped in to cover a colleague’s classes on Baudrillard and is looking for examples of the phenomenon in order to explain it to her students. The trouble is, the more she looks, the more she begins to see something which might be real.
There are, as it were, multiple dimensions to Aaron and Aiden Truss’ deliciously creepy little film. At the simplest level, it’s an enjoyably scary experience, a variant on the haunted house story which is nicely shot and will have you peering uncomfortably at shadows for some time afterwards. On another, it’s a differently disturbing take on Baudrillard’s ideas about the simulated and the real, something which has only grown in relevance since the time of his writing. Is Sinead, by perceiving something which isn’t there, investing it with its own, distinct reality?
The latter idea is given some weight by the concerns of a priest introduced in another plot strand, raising enough interesting theological questions for a whole separate film. Pareidolia does not pursue these – it is more interested in being provocative than in drawing firm conclusions, perhaps in the hope that some viewers will, in true horror movie fashion, conduct their own experiments or shift their own thinking, providing extra scares down the line. It will leave you with plenty to explore, should you choose to do so.
Along with the interesting subject matter, there are good performances here from a carefully balanced cast, with a framing story set in a hospital morgue which contextualises the rest. This draws in older ideas about the act of looking, leading to a final image intended to deliver a shock, though how effectively it does so will depend on how well you’ve been paying attention. Across the breadth of the film, special effects are kept to a minimum. It’s the simplicity and deliberateness of the haunting scenes which makes them so effective, creating a sense of slow, patient predation.
With a huge amount going on for a short film, Pareidolia is something special. keep you eyes open for it.Reviewed on: 29 Aug 2023