Continuing with our coverage of the films being showcased at this year’s Blood In the Snow Film Festival, we got the opportunity to watch ‘Duppy’ from writer and director Andrew Hamilton.
Pulled from Jamaican folklore, DUPPY is a horror-driven meditation on the displacement of diaspora through the eyes of a man grappling with who he is in the world. When a disturbing occurrence befalls a young man packing up a shuttered bookstore on Eglinton West, or as it’s better known to the people of Toronto, the neighborhood of Little Jamaica, he comes face to face with a terror greater than anything he’s ever experienced.
The first eleven minutes of the short film focus on eleven-year-old Oliver, who hears the terrifying tale of the Duppy from his grandmother. She warns Oliver that the Duppy is an evil spirit that only wants “death and destruction for the living.”
She then recalls her own run-in with the malevolent spirit when she was about the same age as Oliver is now.
She was walking home late one night when she suddenly felt a chill that permeated down to her bones. When she looked up, she saw a woman who smelt of “fire” coming towards her. The unknown woman was calling out the name “Fredrick” into the night. As she got closer and finally stepped into the light, she could see that the woman’s skin was peeling from her bones.
The woman then turned to her, with eyes that appeared “whiter than white,” and spoke directly to the grandmother, telling her how she couldn’t find her husband Fredrick anywhere, before flashing a toothy grin.
It was then that Oliver’s grandmother noticed that the woman was carrying an infant in her arms. The infant seemed to be dead, yet somehow the child was still moving and appeared to be eating the dead flesh from off the woman’s bones.
As she tried to leave, the woman ran up to her screaming her husband’s name. Oliver’s grandmother ran for her life, and when she reached the safety of her home, she fell to her knees and began to pray with everything she had.
‘Duppy’ then cuts to the present and we see a now grown-up Oliver as he packs up the remnants of a bookstore, the same bookstore he used to frequent as a child and where he used to listen to his grandmother’s stories.
From here, ‘Duppy’ starts to build some tension as unexplained occurrences begin to happen within the store, all while we hear the recorded voice of Oliver’s grandmother recounting the tale of her run-in with the Duppy.
Just as the level of tension starts to peak, ‘Duppy’ takes a bold turn and breaks the tension by introducing the character of Wally. Here the film works to establish a human element to the story as we learn that Oliver has only recently returned to the place he used to call home. Through Wally, we discover that Oliver is running from his responsibilities, too afraid to face the tragedies that life recently threw at him and longing for a time when life was easier.
Following Wally’s departure, ‘Duppy’ immediately gets back to work creating a sense of unease in its viewer, an unease that feels greater because of the brief respite from it.
In the final seven minutes of the film, Oliver is forced to come face to face with his demons and he learns the hard way that you can’t run from life because the horrors in this world always have a way of finding you and using your pain against you.
This is especially evident when, like his grandmother before him, Oliver must now stand before the Duppy. Will he be as lucky as his grandmother, or will the malevolent spirit claim Oliver for itself?
Rather than recycle an overused creature of folklore or religion, ‘Duppy’ is looking to bring attention to a supernatural entity that is virtually unknown in the United States and Canada.
This particular being is exclusive to the Caribbean Islands, including Barbados and Jamaica. It has been given little coverage in the media except for minor references in TV and film.
It’s this fear of the unknown that makes ‘Duppy’ work. We get glimpses of this creature and immediately start to let our imagination fill in the gaps. What is this thing and what is it capable of?
The film also brings a human element into the story. It’s not just the story of a monster chasing down our protagonist, but rather a message on grief and how, just like fangs and claws, our feelings can be used against us. No matter how hard you try to avoid the difficult parts of life, you can’t run away from your problems.
Hamilton is breaking new ground by showcasing an original idea, and we at Horror Facts hope you check out his short film at Blood in the Snow.
‘Duppy’ is written and directed by Andrew Hamilton and stars Jay Knight as Oliver Bennet, Grace McDonald as Grandma Bennet, Peyton McLean as Young Oliver, Jessica Myrie as Charmaine Bennet, Wayne Smile as Wally, Rick Arbajio as the unnamed Construction Man, and Alan Shane Lewis as the Duppy.