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[Panic Fest Review] FENG SHUI is a Clever and Frightening Twist on Home Invasion


Bobby August Jr. in FENG SHUI (2023), directed by Nick Chang and Kamran Rathod - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Step One Films

Written and directed by Nick Chang and Kamran Rathod, Feng Shui is a short thriller with a deceptively simple premise. Inspired by the housing crisis in San Francisco, the film is a subversive twist on home invasion horror. The film delivers a long-lasting scare that will have audiences questioning their reality.


The film stars Natalia Dominguez as Shena, a woman living in a small apartment on her own –– at least, that is what she believes. On the opposite side of her wall lives The Pale Man (Bobby August Jr.), a long-haired stranger who is often barely clothed. When Shena comes home, he is silent and hidden away, but when she leaves for work, The Pale Man eerily crawls from his hiding spot through the vent to rearrange her furniture and enjoy her living space.


Feng Shui stands out as an incredibly well-balanced film, much like its title suggests. The writing is discerning in how it plays with viewer expectations. When we first see The Pale Man, we may expect him to be the one who lives in the apartment. However, as he runs to hide before Shena can see him, our stomachs churn at the realization that this woman has no idea she’s not living alone.



Bobby August Jr. in FENG SHUI (2023), directed by Nick Chang and Kamran Rathod - Panic Fest 2023.
Courtesy of Step One Films

The film manages to create nauseating unease, even as we convince ourselves we know how it will end. Chang and Rathod seem to understand that the audience’s inferences and doubts make Feng Shui’s premise as terrifying as it is. The identity of The Pale Man and the logistics of his stay within Shena’s walls are up to the viewer’s interpretation. Without an honest answer, we can imagine hundreds of possibilities –– each one more horrifying than the last.


Dominguez and August Jr. portray their roles with unnerving realism. Watching Shena move about her apartment feels like looking through someone’s window and glimpsing more of their life than we’d ever want to see. Watching The Pale Man, on the other hand, is disturbing in an entirely different fashion. As he voyeuristically peers through the grates of Shena’s vent, his darkened eyes are a sight we won’t soon forget.


Feng Shui is a film that utilizes its limited time to great value. The catchy soundtrack and neon lighting are a vibrant contrast to its unsettling ambiance and quiet, lingering shots. The film reflects an uncomfortable uncertainty: are we ever truly alone, and would we ever know otherwise?


 



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