Do attending Metal shows give you anxiety? Well, maybe it should.
‘LICHEMOTH’ opens with a quote about a forgotten entity named Lich. Liches, are beings that, “…embrace undeath through possession and ultimate sexual awakenings of virgin flesh for eternal existence.” Quite the mouthful, as any conjuring ought to be.
We enter the deceptively straightforward, and dark world of this film through our protagonist Doll, who is played by Idalia Valles. When everyone else refuses to take the gig, snapping photos of the controversial band, Lichemoth, Doll’s boss doubles her usual rate, which gets us to where we need to be.
Naturally, things go awry rather quickly, leaving Doll with an array of bad photos and a gnarly rash on her neck. Gnarly, as in very disturbingly itchy to look at. A job well done.
The film raises some important questions too, like, how do you ensure that the incense being lit onstage and blown into your face at shows aren’t actually human remains? Is that a spell the lead singer is chanting, or just some experimental Latin anecdotes? Or, is it even safe to be a virgin anymore?
Some answers are a great deal more apparent than others. Not that this film is about digging down into the roots of things, anyhow. This does not seem to be its intention.
Rather, writer/director Carla Nichamin cultivates an inner journey on the surface of this world, which lingers on the tactility of such an experience. The experience, being possession. With the namesake band, Lichemoth, at the core of this elusive yet definitively-brewing evil that sets the foundation of this short, it is no surprise that music plays a significant role in the piece. The sound of metal seeps through the short in a way that feels rather intuitive as opposed to being a facet of the shock value itself, adding to our understanding of Doll. Music shapes her world, and now it has begun to reshape her…for better or–no, definitely for worse.
The ominous quality of the film really shines through its use of cinematography. The deep, red POV shots of the band were especially striking. Not unlike the deep inside colors of closing one’s eyes before a bright light. Seeing, yet not seeing. Otherwise, the composition of shots felt surprisingly measured. After all, there isn’t much dialogue to rest the narrative on, and most of the unease trickling through the film stems from movement–Doll’s–as well as some very pointed glances.
With such a specific individual at the helm of this curated world, I did find myself yearning for more of a sense of what Doll was like. It isn’t often that we see characters like her on-screen. Yet in the same vein, the details which were offered didn’t come across quite as grounded as the protagonist herself.
The nods to her virginity over the course of the film felt too subtle and rather ‘on the nose’ in the same breath. Is there a way to reawaken the dead without purity? On the flip side, I’m not sure why Doll had to be in lingerie to close the film, as the spirit of the deceased (played by Theo Buckwald) took over her form, either.
But hey, a ritual is a ritual, right? And underground metal bands sure know how to perform one.
Panic Fest 2023: Virgins, Metal and Reawakening the Dead in ‘Lichemoth’