Griffica

By C.J. Arellano | Horror
A man suspects his coffee-loving boyfriend is a demon.

Robbie has met a seemingly perfect partner, embarking on a relationship and creating a home together. Gavin is handsome, fit, and mindful -- the embodiment of the #highvibes lifestyle in many ways. He's also sweet, a good listener, and a fantastic lover, and to top it all off, he brews a perfect cup of coffee, even taking the time to brew it from a rare bean. Gavin is perfect in almost every way.

But soon that perfection feels too good to be true, pushing Robbie to question the relationship and making him feel inadequate next to such a paragon of virtue. He begins to wonder if Gavin is even human. In fact, he begins wondering if his perfect mate is actually... a demon.

Written and directed by C.J. Arellano, this short horror film leans less on monstrous creatures, special effects, jump scares or even the traditional build-up of suspense that characterizes the genre. Instead, it applies terrific wit and insight into the monsters we make in our minds when it comes to love, self and relationships, while kicking in some sly satire on the highly optimized super-healthy lifestyle we see espoused on social media.

Shot with gleaming, polished cinematography that balances between the moody and the aspirational, the storytelling is driven by the man's voiceover, which runs throughout the entire length of the narrative. We don't ever settle into a scene, experiencing the emotions and insights of a character alongside them. But the writing itself is strong and specific, capturing the quirky, idiosyncratic voice of the main character in a quick-moving stream of thoughts, insights and musings. He's smart, funny but neurotic, an overthinker perhaps. He is also insecure, flawed and has moments of self-loathing. Yet, somehow, he's fallen in love with someone like Gavin.

The stream of voiceover has funny little quips and riffs on a variety of subjects, but it's strongest when it's most emotionally intimate about Robbie and the way he's made vulnerable by his relationship. Actors James Dolbeare and Ulyses Espinoza embody the two poles of the seemingly odd couple, with one mercurial and potentially volatile, the other serenely and precisely immaculate in self-presentation. Gavin remains a cipher throughout the film, an object of both desire and contemplation. And eventually, he becomes the fixed point where Robbie focuses his fear and insecurity of the future.

Parlaying this anxiety into a bonkers realization, "Griffica" does eventually build up to a moment of suspense at its end. But what resonates and lingers is its insight into how a lack of self-love can destabilize even the best of relationships. When we lack self-love and self-esteem, we question our lovability or worthiness. The film takes this insecurity and runs with it in heightened, unpredictable directions. But in its portrait of someone who questions just why someone so amazing could love them -- and finds an extreme way of pushing them away -- this feeling of unworthiness is relatable to many. Is Robbie's final choice an act of self-defense or an act of self-sabotage? The film cleverly spins it both ways, sending viewers off on both an adrenaline rush and some food for thought.




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