Alex Nguyen says Sinphony is an uneven affair where the vignettes act more as a series of genre exercises than a cohesive whole.
Horror filmmakers have spent the past couple of years in isolation, like many of us. The pandemic pushed many to change the way they interact with each other, forming a largely online mode of communication from the safety of their own homes. This led to the rise of apps like Clubhouse, a social media platform that allows users to talk in groups through virtual rooms, which serves as a valuable networking tool. Sinphony includes shorts directed by Wes Driver, Jason Ragosta, Steven Keller, Haley Bishop, Nichole Carson, Kimberley Elizabeth, Michael Galvan, Mark A. Pritchard, and Jason Wilkinson. Director and producer Sebastien Bazile met each filmmaker on Clubhouse, making it the first film born through the app.
Great horror anthologies like Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat (2007) have compelling vignettes. Sinphony consists of nine short films at runtimes of about ten minutes. Many of the shorts feel incomplete and in need of additional time for story development. Pritchard’s "Limited Edition" has perhaps the most ambitious concept in which Patricia (Donna-Louise Bryan) uses her occult book to harm Anna (Stella Stocker), a doctor who operated on her late father. However, the rules for how the world works are unclear, with Anna suddenly able to access the text as well. This creates undefined stakes that ultimately result in a puzzling conclusion, leaving audiences bewildered.
Anthologies usually offer a working throughline that connects the shorts under a unifying theme. With Sinphony, that throughline feels tacked on. The narratives are loosely linked by Bazile's "Symphony of Horror," a two-part short that bookends the film. However, the song's meaning is not explored during the runtime, acting as aesthetic over function. Instead, through the use of paranormal entities, shorts like Carlson's "Maternally Damned" take on an entirely unrelated approach. This particular vignette centers on the grief of losing a mother at a young age and how that manifests during one's own entry into parenthood. While this is an engaging idea, it doesn’t align well with the interwoven concept that the song establishes.
Sinphony is an uneven affair where the vignettes act more as a series of genre exercises than a cohesive whole. The high points are merely good enough to watch, while those that do not work with the theme overwhelm the film. There are several missed opportunities, such as Driver’s “The Keeper,” whose narrative is intriguing but the use of domestic violence as a false reveal instead of the emotional crux, which is disappointing. Bazile makes a notable attempt to unite diverse voices but ultimately stumbles with the collection's delivery.
Sinphony world premiered at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival on October 15th, 2022.