Suffering from cluster headaches, a man’s mental state begins to rapidly decline as his pain takes form in a nightmarish apparition, which looms over him shadowing his daily activities. When faced with the realization that the pain may never and, and possibly get worse, the victim’s will to live is tested.
With a central focus of relaying the degree of fear and anxiety brought on by sufferers of ‘cluster headaches’, Lebanese director Karim Araman’s short film “Clustifer” gears all aspects of the production into conveying the pain associated with the condition. To great effect, Araman creates a terrific vision, through manifestation pain into another creature that haunts its protagonist.
Within the visual presentation, the camera angles take various approaches in each scene. This method acts as an ideal interpretation of symptoms that can pop up at any point, warping the protagonist’s sense of normalcy. This contrast can be exemplified in transitions from more intimate shots with the man bobbing his head against the wall, reflecting a strong personal struggle. This transitions into a scene where the partners’ presence is more pronounced, reflecting the burden on the family unit. In addition to capturing pain, the camera also works to obscure the creature that is the representation of the headache, a twisted image of the sufferer himself. This is best utilized when the creature is only teased, with fleeting images of fingers wrapping around the victim’s head. “Clustifer” presents some harrowing imagery that warrants greater horror in knowing this is a reality for others. Overall, the visual presentation is only flawed by a muddied color pallet that obscures some of the visuals, but otherwise stays consistently haunting and effective.
“Clustifer” balances elements of horror with a, seemingly, realistic portrait of a person who suffers from cluster headaches (Without ever having them myself, I can’t say with certainty how accurate the portrayal is.) The result makes for a humbling experience when this type of pain is personified in a way that is hard to imagine being a reality to others. Ultimately, the use of horror helps understanding of others’ plights, which is seldom effectively utilized within the genre. Beyond issues with the color pallet, the film flawlessly manages to incite fear and shed light on what it is like to suffer ‘cluster headaches’. It is a powerful combination that Karim Araman handles with great skill, making “Clustifer” essential viewing for fans of short film.