Transporting you into the seedy world of taxi-driving underdog Johnny Supro, Belgian animation Ghost Eye is a film searching for the poetry in pain and the beauty in decay. Interested in creating “a story that grabs you by the throat”, Thijs De Cloedt and Wouter Sel’s 19-minute short invites you to follow its brooding lead’s meagre existence from playground bully to stripper-rescuing outsider.
Though the film is centred around and narrated by Supro, Ghost Eye is essentially a guided tour through his world, introducing you to an array of individuals that made some kind of mark on his sh*tty life. From the claw-handed bar-dwelling Big Henry to underground-cinema manager Grace, Cloedt and Sel have created an impressive collection of oddball characters, all of which feel primed for a breakout short of their own.
“I’d love for the audience to be slightly confused” – an unusual claim from the directorial duo, but they admit the want the viewers of Ghost Eye to be unsure whether what they have just witnessed was “beautiful, ugly or a mixture of both”. Whichever side you come down on, Cloedt and Sel hope you connect to their “unsympathetic characters” and when the film ends you’re left wondering what happens to the rest of their lives.
Underscored by a simmering soundtrack from François De Meyer and driven by a gravelly voiceover by Godfather of desert rock Chris Goss, Ghost Eye is a short brimming with atmosphere, tension and visual flair. “To match the raw, direct writing style we designed in distinct drawing styles for the different chapters”, Cloedt and Sel explain as we discuss their aesthetic.
Aiming to not only support the varying moods of the story, but “unsettle the audience” with their style, the filmmaking pair were never intent on designing a perfect world for their story. Instead aiming to amplifying the unnerving emotions at play in their film, there’s a grungy, hallucinogenic tinge to the aesthetic, that the directors describe as a “visual kick in the teeth”.
Ghost Eye feels like a short influenced by a variety of sources. It’s hard not to watch the film and be reminded of Frank Miller’s seminal neo-noir graphic novel series Sin City, but there’s also flashes of Charles Burns and Scorsese in there too. With Goss taking voiceover duties it feels like music also played an important role in the film’s development.
Despite these comparisons, there’s plenty of originality to enjoy in Ghost Eye and if you’re a fan of what Cloedt and Sel have created here you’ll be excited to hear they are now developing a miniseries, that they claim will centre on the “filthy and twisted adolescent mind”.