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NIFFF 2023

Review: Double Blind


- Irish director Ian Hunt-Duffy’s debut feature film is an angst-inducing huis clos tinged blood-red and exuding a strong smell of disinfectant

Review: Double Blind
Millie Brady in Double Blind

Presented in a world premiere at the Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival, within the Ultra Movies section dedicated to the more audacious works on the fantastic film spectrum, Double Blind keeps tension running high without ever overegging the special effects, confronting viewers with their own fears in a direct and incredibly ingenious way. Sadistically tormenting claustrophobes as much as narcoleptics, Irish director Ian Hunt-Duffy’s debut feature film, penned by Darach McGarrigle, awakens fears in viewers which they thought they’d left behind in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

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Having always been interested in genre film - the kind that leaves viewers gripping their armrests - Ian Hunt-Duffy knows that the recipe for a good horror film involves just the right balance between tension and contemplation, attraction and repulsion, disgust and beauty. His first feature film Double Blind manages to keep the audience in an ongoing state of tension while dispensing moments of pure horror - like the pills its protagonists swallow – during which blood gushes forth as if boiling over from the inside.

As the title suggests (the term “double blind” refers to scientific experiments where neither the subjects examined or those managing them are aware of the fundamental details of the research), the film is set inside a laboratory where scientific research is being carried, whose process and anticipated effects are unknown to all those present. We know absolutely nothing about the seven human test-subjects in the film, apart from what emerges during their sparse conversations. With time, however, it becomes pretty clear that they’re united by their lack of social connections, as well as their financial precariousness and the general malaise characterising their lives. From the outset, the atmosphere is sterile and the general mood icy, but there’s nothing to suggest what will actually unfold between that laboratory’s four white, sterile walls.

Guiding us through this mysterious scientific research project led by an uptight doctor (played by Pollyanna McIntosh) who’s reminiscent of the teachers in Dario Argento’s Suspiria, is Claire (the elusive and intriguing Millie Brady), a young woman with a tormented past who doesn’t even enjoy the luxury of having a roof over her head. As the hours pass and the dose of the mysterious drugs which the participants have to ingest rises exponentially, we come to realise that this austere laboratory actually conceals a sordid truth and, in the end, this truth emerges forcefully by way of litres of haemoglobin gushing out of the orifices of the first participant, who’s overcome by an unknown ill. It’s only when the group (which includes a medical student played by Akshay Kumar) finds itself trapped between the laboratory’s ultra-thick walls that their sad fate becomes clear: whoever falls asleep will ultimately die.

Incapable of distinguishing between good and evil, or reality and gruesome visions, the protagonists of Double Blind experience something which means they can no longer escape - not even momentarily - from the oppressiveness of a not-always-rosy day-to-day life, into the arms of an ever-more distant Morpheus, and Die Hexen’s sophisticated yet troubling music feeds into this oppressive and poisonous atmosphere running through the film.

Double Blind is produced by Failsafe Films.

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(Translated from Italian)

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