Spoiler-Free Film Review: “The Complex Forms” (Slamdance Film Festival)

January 24, 2024

Written by Joseph Perry

Joseph Perry is the Film Festival Editor for Horror Fuel; all film festival related queries and announcements should be sent to him at josephperry@gmail.com. He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Gruesome Magazine, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right. A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.

It is January 22, 2024 as I write this review, and I have my first strong candidate for my list of best films of 2024: writer/director Fabio D’Orta’s genre-blending Italian chiller The Complex Forms.

With his film, which he himself lensed in luscious black-and-white, D’Orta uses for inspiration classic cinema both Italian and international, investing these inspirations with a modern sensibility and a maverick vision. The budget may have been low, but the look of the film — including fantastical, beautifully rendered creature design — belies that fact.

Christian Del Ben (David White) is down on his luck to the point that he has agreed to sell the use of his body to a mysterious entity for a sum of money that will help him get back on his feet. This takes place in a mysterious villa, the location of which none of the men who have made the pact know about. Del Ben is roommates with the affable Luh (Michelle Venni) and the near-silent, stand-offish Giant (Cesare Bonomelli). When the trio witnesses a terrifying event involving a bizarre monster, they must reconsider their actions, though the villa director (Enzo Solazzi) warns that there is no turning back on the deals they made.


D’Orta infuses The Complex Forms with dread and paranoia, along with no small amount of existential terror. Horror, science fiction, and thriller elements blend together marvelously as the tension heightens, and though viewers learn little of the protagonists’ back stories at first — villa residents are forbidden to share names and certain personal information — D’Orta fleshes them out so well and the performances are so impressive that we are wholly invested in their fates.

After watching the film for the first time, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. that morning and it was the first thing that came to mind — and was again when I woke up for good for the day a few hours later. Days later, I still roll the experience through my mind. That’s the power of The Complex Forms

The Complex Forms screens as part of the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival, which celebrates its 30th edition in Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah, from January 19–25 and virtually on the Slamdance Channel from January 22–28. For more information, visit https://slamdance2024.eventive.org/welcome.


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