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CFF Review: Youssef Chebbi and Ismaël’s ‘Black Medusa’

CFF Review: Youssef Chebbi and Ismaël’s ‘Black Medusa’

Youssef Chebbi and Ismaël’s “Black Medusa” is a rape-revenge saga of sorts, following a “promising young Tunisian woman” named Nada who picks up drunk, horny scumbags nightly and agrees to come home with them where she drugs them before sexually defiling their bodies. It’s just as brutal as it sounds, even more so when you factor in the eerie black and white color palette, the chilling piano score, and the excellent cinematography.

It starts off so strong with compellingly confusing moments that set up what appears to be a solid narrative that’ll surely have a good twist or two. She meets a new co-worker named Noura, who after a very dry first encounter realizes Nada can’t speak and uses a phone to communicate, is determined to befriend Nada in order to decipher her mysterious personality. This determination is only further exaggerated when they have a very strange chance encounter soon after and Noura becomes even more suspicious of Nada’s secretive nature, prompting her to pursue the friendship even harder. All the while 

Nada is slowly becoming more and more consumed by her nightlife persona’s seductive, murderous habits, and you can feel the two narratives beginning to move closer together. Just as you’re getting eager for something grand to happen though, it doesn’t. Things just sort of take a  weirdly rushed tonal shift that doesn’t provide enough breathing room for the character’s changing motivations to properly develop. It feels drawn out in other areas though, with a lot of the back half feeling slightly wasted, so it could’ve worked in the films favor to sacrifice a little of the style in order to apply that screen time to where it was needed for empowering character development. 

Even with it’s inclusion of some shockingly powerful scenes and an overall striking atmosphere, the final act will likely leave you wishing they’d provided just a little more context to some of the events you see play out. It’s got a lot to say, managing to absolutely disgust and disturb at times, though ultimately not feeling cohesive enough to really drive it’s message home like you want it to despite it’s powerful moments.