Student film brings traditional goth back to ‘Phantom’ story

Students have high hopes for a low-budget film.

The cast and crew of “Erik: Portrait of a Living Corpse” will gather for a film showing at 7 p.m. April 27 in the Moudy Building South.

“Erik: Portrait of a Living Corpse” is based on a French novel “Le Fantôme de l’Opéra” by Gaston Leroux, said Ryan Bijan, the film’s director, writer and editor.

Although the story of the Phantom of the Opera has been interpreted through dozens of films, Bijan said his version brought a refreshing fidelity to Leroux’s 1910 text.

Autumn Hyun said the story revolved around Christine Daaé, a young soprano, and Erik Shahryar, a disfigured killer and “phantom” of the opera house. Hyun played Christine in the film.

Erik began giving Christine voice lessons as part of his plan to marry her, Hyun said. The phantom killed anyone who threatened to disrupt his plot. 

In contrast to some of the more popular adaptations, including the 2004 film starring Gerard Butler and Emmy Rossum, the movie unfolds from Erik’s perspective, Bijan said. 

“Portrait of a Living Corpse” gives the phantom a gruesome appearance, Bijan said, and zero romantic appeal. To Bijan, the modern film adaptations have wandered too far from the Gothic origins of the book.

“Even with the acid scars on his face,” Bijan, a junior film-television-digital media major, said, “Gerard Butler still looks like a GQ model.”

In the summer of 2010, Bijan and his cast of volunteer actors finished shooting the 62-minute film that he hoped would represent the dark nature of the 1910 script.

Including the cost of a new computer Bijan purchased to edit the footage, the project cost $7,000, he said.

Kylo-Patrick Hart, professor and chair of the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media, said that since its October release, the movie enjoyed a warm reception.

“Portrait of a Living Corpse” was nominated for the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award and was featured at the 2012 Mad Monster Party Film Festival. Horror and occult film magazine Phantom of the Movies Videoscope named it best indie winner of the season and awarded it three out of four stars.

And yet, all of these awards come from a niche community.

Although most of the awards have come from a sub-culture of monster-movie followers, Hart said the film’s soundtrack and visual depth could be appreciated regardless of who evaluated it.

“It truly is one of the best student-made films that I have seen in years,” Hart said.

The film also received positive feedback from audiences in Fort Worth and Beeville, Bijan’s hometown, Hart said.

“I approached the film without any pretension and tried to tell the story as best as I could,” Bijan said. “And maybe that’s why people like it.”

When: 7 p.m. April 27
Where: Moudy Building South Room 164
Cost: Free
Reception, Q&A and DVD sale afterward
Film is available on DVD for $21 exclusively on the official website,