Speak of the Devil...and he shall appear! Welcome to SYFY WIRE's exclusive world premiere of Scratch, a short film about an unnamed serial killer haunted by Satan himself in a classic New Jersey diner on a dark and stormy night. Written and directed by Ronan Jorah (he also plays Beelzebub), the project derives its title from an age-old nickname for the Devil: "Old Scratch."
"The old ‘Scratch’ name comes from, ‘I didn’t give you the itch, I just helped you scratch it,'" Jorah, the son of a Methodist minister tells us. "I just thought it’d be interesting [to explore] because I’ve always been fascinated by Milton, Faust, and The Devil and Daniel [Webster]. I tried to come up with a way that would be sort of a new version of that and for some reason, bringing the Devil into a diner in New Jersey seemed like it’d be fun."
Watch the short below:
Told strictly from the killer's POV, Scratch — a morality tale about good and evil at its crux — almost feels like you're playing out an atmospheric video game (think BioShock) for nine minutes straight. While this wasn't Ronan's intention, he doesn't mind the comparison.
"Because you’re viewing it from his point-of-view, you should be rooting for the police to catch the killer and yet, you can’t help but have a little bit of a fear in the pit of your stomach, wanting him to get away with it because you’re looking through his eyes," explains the filmmaker, who cites Fritz Lang, Ingmar Bergman, and Ridley Scott as influences.
Speaking of Scott, the drab and neon-soaked world glimpsed outside the diner does help evoke a Blade Runner-esque state of mind. In addition, the muted color scheme and overall noir vibe recall the stylized work of directors like Zack Snyder and Robert Rodriguez.
"I have an obsession with world as character. It’s sort of saying, ‘I’m gonna place these characters in a world and the world itself almost feels like it’s alive," adds Jorah. "I like the idea of dwarfing characters against some sort of larger-than-life backdrop and then you have to kind of work out the moral conundrums in the face of that."
As for the Prince of Darkness (brought to life via a bayou-inspired drawl that "just seemed right"), Ronan wanted the audience to question whether he's actually there or if he's simply a figment of the main character's imagination, a fevered rationalization of his murderous predilections.
"I sort of wrote him both ways," concludes the director. "His dialogue is a strange combination of slightly twisted scripture, Shakespeare, and Milton ... In the case of the killer, it was this idea of people who feel both powerful to take their anger out on people, but also feel victimized at the same time. ‘It’s ok that I do what I do because I am the victim.’ And so, you’re left to wonder whether this is an actual demonic force telling him that or this is just what he’s invented to justify himself."
Produced by Carey Van Driest, the short co-stars Mark Delabarre, Carey Van Driest, R.J. Foster, JR Carter, Peter Daniel Straus, Tiffany Peach, and Rob Eigenbrod.