In the opening 3 minutes, we see a young girl brutally murdered while she is in the bath. The unseen killer then takes a straight-razor to the victims eyeball and we see all the blood-curdling brutality in close-up, just as we did in Un Chien Andalou. It is grotesque, but it grips you. Yellow hooks you in the first 3 minutes and captivates you from then on, all the while paying homage to the long-since-neglected Giallo film.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the Giallo phenomenon is Horror sub-genre that came to light in Italy during the 60’s and 70’s. Although it has its roots firmly in Horror, Giallo film’s have a tendency of being closer to Crime Thrillers, with a heavily-stylized, sleek and sexy feel. Think along the lines of Hammer Horror’s cool Italian cousin. Champions of the genre include Dario Argento (once hailed as Italy’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock), as well as Lucio Fulci.
Now you’re up to speed with the history, let’s talk about Yellow.
The short film is the brainchild of English filmmakers Ryan Haysom and Jon Britt, and tells the story of a man who has developed an obsession with a serial killer and seeks to track him down. Set to the backdrop of modern Berlin (where Haysom has based himself), Yellow is just over 25 minutes long and marks the return of Giallo values and themes to European films. All the hallmarks of the genre are there: the ultra-violence, the sex appeal, the sleek cinematography, and above all, the agonizing tension.
As previously mentioned, the opening scene is engrossing and horrifying in equal measures, and that balance continues through the entire film. Despite its run-time, the film only has a handful of dialogue lines, instead opting for nothing but blaring techno music for almost its entirety. This at times does make it feel as though you’re just watching a really long, horrendously inappropriate music video, but it also adds to the glossy feel to the film. It also creates an interesting contrast effect, as on the occasions where the music disappears, the silence (as it so often is in horror films) makes things unbearably tense.
Yellow is shot beautifully, and supplies the audience with a fascinating combination of a low-budget film that has been shot as though money was not option. A long sweeping helicopter shot, high-quality close ups and well-placed zooms and pans give the impression that you are watching a short film with a much higher budget than you really are, an illusion that both pays homage to Giallo films, and has a beneficial effect on the film.
Despite being clearly Giallo inspired, I can see a lot of other, more modern film influences in Yellow. It is reminiscent in a lot of ways of 2011’s Drive, with its ultra-violence, super-stylized camera work and even the combination of the synthesizer music and Berlin neon-piped architecture gives it an almost 1980’s feel. Beyond that example, the unknown but ruthless killer and the desperation of the characters reminds of the films Micheal Mann made in the early days of his career.
Yellow is at times hard to watch but ultimately a very enjoyable film. Haysom, along with cinematographer Jon Britt, shows he has the ability to manipulate the camera in an impressively complex way, and with more financial backing has the potential to take his short-film prowess to feature length heights. The film is a homage to Giallo filmmaking, but stands as modern revival of the themes without simply being a throwback.