Short Film Review – Incel (2018)

An Incel is a person described living within the subculture of the Internet; positioned in involuntary celibacy, that are unable to find romantic sexual partners despite desiring one. They are typically rejected, white, male and heterosexual.

John Merizalde’s short-film, Incel, follows a 21 year-old male college student, Sam, an incel, who is madly indignant about his stagnant relations to girls. Merizalde presents us with a sinister narrative in an impactful series of only three scenes. Merizalde does an excellent job speculating on a realistic narrative taking place in a part of America’s underground subculture, within twelve minutes, three actors and a tight script. Incel is one of the most intelligible, pedagogical short films of the year without falling into documentary or film essay – first-rate.

The basis of Incel was for Merizalde to investigate his confliction and sympathy for the incel individual and his relationship to the internet society.

The first scene depicts Katy, a female college student studying with her back towards the camera. The protagonist, Sam (played by Théodore Pellerin), walks into the shot in a burgundy jacket and black trousers in a rogue fashion, though his head is cut off from the screen, evidencing his insignificance. He introduces himself to Katy in a piscine approach taking the raspy tone of Bane without the swagger. Sam eventually asks to sit next to Katy, takes a chair, plants it next to her begins complimenting her, one line goes, “you have beautiful hair” followed by an adolescent gulp “If you let it grow more, it would go better, with the shape of your face.”

Katy walks off and is prodded for her number with an approach until she responds with a repulsive “Don’t touch me!” Sam explodes as Katy fends herself, he bellows, in the library “ YOU FUCKING SLUTS ARE ALL THE SAME!” Sam stalks out of the scene in dinosaur fashion, ponders and walks to the starting point of the scene where he picks up his phone, which is recording.

The opening does a good job of hooking us into a narrative and essaying the archetype of an incel, we see the social difficulties faced by one, which was established from good acting by Théodore Pellerin, who took charge of Sam’s neurosis and fragility of emotions, which is more than evident in the closing scene of Sam’s sudden change in walk. Not to mention the dangerousness Pellerin acted in the explosive bellow.

The second scene opens with a contextual reminiscence of Her, 2013. In this scene, Sam – headshot, computer screen, a male voiceover of self-help podcasts, shot in a blue-noir Internet tone. An almost polar opposite feel to Her, bolstering the film with a sinister Internet feel.

What gives the second half of short film more concentration is the escalation of tension in Sam’s psychology, which is morally tested by the proposition to party by his flatmate Chad (played by John Y. Li), a very strong scene as it test’s Sam’s initial feelings towards women and deceives the narrative.

The intensity of Sam’s repressed emotions bleeding out to the big climax is visually articulated very well by director of photography, Sean Conaty, who does an excellent job of presenting the scene with tight camera angles and consistently keeping the film’s blue-noir internet tone, alongside the editing of Chad Sarahina who shows precise timing shutting away moments of drama to calmness, evident when Sam’s flatmate Chad barges through his door.

Incel is an interesting short film of high-quality, tight narrative, realistic screenwriting, good acting and slick visuals. For a film with assimilating-intentions Merizalde does a first-class job in astutely depicting a dark side of American society and the Internet underground without presenting a documentary or film essay. Merizalde’s short film Incel promises us more interesting work to follow.

Keanu Arcadio


Drama |USA, 2018 | 19mins | Dir.John Merizalde | Meredith Adelaide, John Yang Li, Théodore Pellerin

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