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Dédalo – A Short Film Tribute to Space Horror

With the return of MotelX, the biggest horror film festival in Portugal, it’s worth taking a look at one of the Festival’s past gems: Dédalo. This little short film directed by Jerónimo Sousa and inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien was an exceptionally moody space horror film whose craftsmanship hasn’t aged a day since it was first unveiled to an old-school horror craving crowd in 2013.

Space Horror is a merge of two genres that have for long been connected: Science Fiction and Horror. After all, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published in 1818, was an arguable precursor of both genres. However, horror in space itself was often a subject limited to B-Movies. It’s worth keeping in mind that some of these movies were indeed quite good. Even if limited by their age or their thin budgets, the likes of Forbidden Planet (1956) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) are still highly influential works. However, they weren’t completely believable. The special effects were charming but not particularly realistic.

All the expectations of what a film of this kind could be were completely shattered and shot through space by Ridley Scott’s Alien in 1979. All special effects innovations were applied in a film where it truly felt like the characters were in space. Where the worlds they went to felt tangible and had real texture. This was a universe where aliens were truly alien, instead of humanoids with knowledge and emotions similar to our own. It was Lovecraftian. Believable in a way that still makes it resonate and inspire new filmmakers.

Dédalo was initially just supposed to be a spot for the MotelX festival and started with a simple premise: A woman had to walk behind a monster and not be found out. The film has the bare bones minimum of a story because in less than 10 minutes, it really couldn’t be more developed than this. Instead, all of the film’s runtime is focused on building tension and dragging us down to the Final Girl’s shoes. Like the best horror films, it takes us to a seemingly inescapable hell.

Building a science fiction universe on screen isn’t easy though. It’s the reason why so many of these stories need to be high budgeted. Why CGI is usually a necessity. Dédalo went through a different route though, truly homaging old space horror films with elaborate sets and miniatures.

Dédalo homages a genre but is also able to hide it’s budgetary limitations, leaning towards the believability of Alien. The work that went towards making the space ships also created machines that would have felt right at home in a classic 70s-80s science fiction film, without feeling like they ripped off one film’s ship in particular.

It’s unfortunate that so many good short films end up being almost impossible to find outside the film festival circuir. Fortunately enough, the entire film can be watched online. Not just that, the entire journey has been documented in an extensive Making Of film.

By Adriano Ferreira

Born in 1995 and with a degree in Communication Studies, Adriano works as a cameraman and video editor. Rants about movies and television shows on the YouTube channel Cabo Cinético and has worked on numerous short-films. Has also written articles for Espalha-Factos and Sem Bilhete.

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