In all my years of sifting through the sludge of the web wasteland, searching for rare flashes of macabre brilliance, I’ve seen shit nearly anyone would consider disturbing — for a wide range of reasons.
I’m not talking about extreme gore sites that exploit our collective morbid fascination with death, violence and cruelty (I’ve seen plenty of that for one lifetime, thank you very much). I’m far more interested in undefinable creative works — be they outsider art projects, shocking stories or transgressive experiments in sound and vision — that shake your perceptions to such an extent you begin to wonder about the mental state of their creators.
These fringe works include the nightmarish videos of Jaye Saint John (alter-ego of late performance artist Eric Fournier), the grotesque animated body horror of Robert Morgan’s BOBBY YEAH, or the puzzle box of psychosis that is AnimalHead.
One of these brain-melting online oddities is the experimental short film ILLUSION OF BIAS (L’illusion D’inclination), from a producer-director who goes by the presumed pseudonym “Alexander Bizarski.” Since it first surfaced online about eight years ago, ILLUSION OF BIAS has developed an ominous viral reputation, enabled further by its inclusion on several “Creepiest Videos of All Time” lists.
Presented in foggy black and white with a washed-out, degraded texture (reminiscent of Chris Marker’s 1962 sci-fi classic LA JETEE), ILLUSION employs a series of crudely-animated still images and superimposed captions (there’s no dialogue, and only a few lines of narration) to spin a simple but highly disturbing fairy tale about a young woman who, ever since a childhood brain operation, has been unable to distinguish her own facial features… and for reasons I won’t spoil here, she awakens each morning in a puddle of her own vomit.
While there is a clear subtext and moral to the story (“Everybody has their own insecurities,” the captions tell us, later asking “Do you appreciate what you have?”), that’s not the most common takeaway for this film’s stunned legions of viewers — it’s more about the deeply disturbing, detached and dreamlike way Bizarski slowly unveils the details of the woman’s strange condition… culminating in a terrifying final revelation.
I can say from personal experience that ILLUSION offers a taste of that frightening out-of-body state often described by sufferers of chronic anxiety, depression, sleep paralysis or night terrors — and for that reason, anyone affected by these conditions should proceed with caution. I’m not the only one who recognizes this, either, as proven by countless comments, blog entries and reaction videos the film has inspired. Even some seasoned extreme-horror fans have confessed being unable to view ILLUSION more than once… but if you’re up to it, here it is:
Of course, if you’re expecting cheap jump scares or extreme gore, you won’t find it here (unless you crank up the volume… your results may vary). But if you’re seeking slow-burn existential horror that will haunt you long after your first viewing, ILLUSION OF BIAS may be the film of your darkest dreams.