Friday, 18 June 2010


Though cinema was essentially born deaf, with sound films coming into common use in the late twenties, it is unusual for modern hearing audiences to imagine the film experience for someone not equipped to appreciate every aspect of it. Step in Deafula, a bizarre vampire film entirely in American sign language. Our lead character is Steve, a family man who moonlights as the bloodthirsty Deafula of the title. After a spate of attacks, Steve/Deafula finds himself on the run from two detectives, one of whom is his childhood friend, but the investigation seems incapable of curbing his murderous desires. Meanwhile, Steve’s sympathetic father is determined to get him some help, advising him to contact old family friend Amy who supposedly has the solution to all his problems.

It is hard judging such a film being outside its target audience, and there are supposedly many sign-language in-jokes that make for a very different film experience. Originally billed as a ‘light comedy’, Deafula is a horror story whose eeriest element is its incompetence. Although designed for the deaf, the film does feature selective dubbing and a piano score, presumably so that hearing people could also enjoy it. This, however, distorts the film even further as the tone and content of the audio doesn’t always match up to the image. It is in its own way a very endearing film, an unsettling peculiarity in the history of cinema, but as good as its intentions were, Deafula is little more than a living nightmare.

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