Welcome to the darker side of AICN! Mark L. Miller aka Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. We’ve got some so-so flicks, some interesting ones, and even some unforgettable fright films as well. On with the horror reviews!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Retro-review: BLOODY BROTHERS (2003)
THE FINAL PROJECT (2016)
LILIN’S BROOD (2016)
WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS (2015)
CUT HER OUT (2014)
CRIMSON PEAK (2015)
Advance Review: DECAY (2015)
And finally…Light’s Out radio play: The Ball!
Retro-review: New on a double feature Bluray from Severin Films!
BLOODY BROTHERS (reedited and remastered in 2003)Directed by Frederick R. Friedel
Written by Frederick R. Friedel
Starring Jack Canon as Frank/Eddie, Leslie Rivers, Leslie Lee, Ray Green, Frederick R. Friedel, Douglas Powers, Frank Jones, Gladys Lavitan, Larry Lambeth, Jim Blankinship, Charles Elledge, Susan McRae, Bob Martin, Clonnie Baxter Strawn, Skip Lundby, Elizabeth Allan Burger, Helen Kaye, Larry Drake, Carol Miller, George J. Monaghan, Smith Hart, Scott Smith
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Cool story. Well, not so cool for writer/director Frederick R. Friedel. When AXE and KIDNAPPED COED were released, the entire distribution and rights to the film were swiped up by greedy and seedy producers, so Friedel never saw a dime, much less got to have any kind of premiere or even a chance to get a copy of the posters for his own films. This isn’t the only story where a director is screwed out of their filmic babies by shyster producers, but this story has a happy ending as Severin released AXE and KIDNAPPED COED as a BluRay Combo pack (I reviewed KIDNAPPED COED here and AXE here). But the cherry on top is that this BluRay also contains another film, which is the one I will be covering in this review.
If you’ve seen AXE and KIDNAPPED COED, then much or all of BLOODY BROTHERS will look familiar to you. That’s because Friedel took the two prints and spliced the two movies together to make one epic grindhouse thriller and called it BLOODY BROTHERS. In the intro of this film, we are told twin brothers (both played by the awesome Jack Canon) are separated at birth and end up going on a violent killing spree on the same day. Then the narrative splits between the teen abduction story seen in KIDNAPPED COED and the gangster home invasion in the wrong house story in AXE.
Confused? You shouldn’t be. Friedel separates the two films by telling us how far these two stories are taking place and the most interesting part is how close the two stories are occurring. It seems these two brothers are set on a collision course, if not for the creepy and insane folks they run into during their crime sprees. BLOODY BROTHERS contains some of the best moments from both AXE and KIDNAPPED COED, but views like a leaner, meaner version of them both. All of the gritty twists, sordid turns, rapid fire editing, and brutal violence from both films are still present and accounted for. They’re just spliced together in a way that makes sense in a whole new story. The added tension of the proximity of the two brothers does work out to be effective as well.
Do both films work told side by side? Not entirely. There are a few scenes that don’t really gel as things happen at night in one locale while it’s daytime in the other. But nothing occurs that completely shatters the myth that these films are happening at once. The ending works out petty nicely, but it would have been cool if some stock footage from that era could have been used to fill in some of the holes. As far as the serendipitous destinations of the two brothers are concerned, the ending isn’t as satisfying (and you know why if you know how these two stories end), but Friedel makes do with what he has.
BLOODY BROTHERS is something pretty unique and worth a look simply to give Friedel’s work a second life with this fresh new version. I loved the way these two movies fit together, but I loved both movies as well, so I may be biased. All three kind of play as a great triple feature and thankfully, Severin released all three so you can check it out here. I don’t know if I like BLOODY BROTHERS better than the individual films, but it is a rather noteworthy endeavor and one that works pretty well in the end. Here’s hoping this new version of both films gets a chance in some festivals. The film seriously deserves it.
No trailer for BLOODY BROTHERS unfortunately, but here are trailers for AXE and KIDNAPPED COED. Click play on both at once and it’s kind of like watching BLOODY BROTHERS itself!
New this week in limited theatrical release in Atlanta and Houston, then on Feb 19th in Broussard, Louisiana, March 4th in New York and Los Angeles (Find out more information about show times and locations here)!
THE FINAL PROJECT (2016)aka THE NIGHT OF LAFITTE
Directed by Taylor Ri'chard
Written by Taylor Ri'chard, Zachary Davis
Starring Amber Erwin, Teal Haddock, Arin Jones, Evan McLean, Leonardo Santaiti, Sergio Suave, Charles Orr, Robert McCarley, Benjie Anderson
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook here and @FinalProjectMov
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
THE FINAL PROJECT is a low fi found footager that packs some effective scares, though it needs some serious time in the editing room.
A group of students decide to do a film school documentary about Lafitte Plantation, a Louisiana property rumored to be haunted by a woman in white and confederate soldiers. Left alone on the property, as their cameras roll, they capture something paranormal and fight to make it to dawn.
THE FINAL PROJECT is a found footager, a fact that will send some people running for the hills since there’s been a ton of these low budget flicks to endure over the years. Personally, I still think the found footatager has some life in it yet as proven by films like CREEP from last year. There are some quality scares in THE FINAL PROJECT as the team trounces around in the dark. The film does a good job of forcing the perspective, as all good found footagers do, amping the tension when you want the POV you are experiencing to look in other directions. There are also a few decent scenes of lead-up, promoting an undercurrent of scares that payoff later. The environment the film is made in is really spooky especially these giant white columns in the yard and the labyrinthine hallways in the home itself and this film takes advantage of that really well.
That said, there’s a lot of this film that deserves to be on the cutting room floor. I was watching the time and a good 40 minutes of this film should have been snipped. The film begins way too early in the game, with the filmmakers getting a camera and “accidentally” leaving it on while back-story is dropped clumsily. Then the student’s pitch to their teacher is filmed in class. Then the long trip to the Lafitte Plantation is filmed for no reason. Yes, it’s justified that this footage would be edited in to the documentary the film is making, but this is a hard 40 minutes to endure as a viewer. Yes, this would only leave about 35 minutes of movie, but all of that extraneous filler could have been dropped and the necessary information should have been parsed into the conversations later. Once the action starts, it’s decent, but it’s a long time to wait to get there.
The other problem here is that these kids being filmed hate each other and the decision to work together to make this documentary project together really makes no sense. Why work with your ex boyfriend? Sure it makes decent drama, but the suspension of disbelief only goes so far and while people are fighting and tearing into one another, it makes you ask the question, is this project so important? Still, THE FINAL PROJECT contains some nice scares and some fun bits of the paranormal peppered throughout the latter half that will be a treat for found footage fans.
New this week for digital download on Amazon and iTunes!
LILIN’S BROOD (2016)Directed by P.W. Simon, Artii Smith
Written by P.W. Simon, Artii Smith
Starring Martin Sensmeier, Maxine Goynes, Melinda Milton, Brent King, Alberto Barros Jr., Artii Smith, Catherine Paiz, James Wellington, Detra Jackson, Grace Demarco, Sandra Hinojosa, Angela Robinson Witherspoon, Suzanne Schmidt, Ajarae Coleman, Tiya Knox
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook here and @LilinsBrood
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
If you’re a fan of the V/H/S series, elements of LILIN’S BROOD are going to sound familiar, but it all fits together rather nicely in the end.
And if you’re wondering, yes, that apple in the poster over there has a vagina.
A gonzo investigation team called WHISTLE looks into the disappearance of a group of men that the authorities have given up on. As they follow up on a lead about an exclusive escort club in the middle of nowhere, their RV breaks down, but they still end up at the doorstep of the elite club, filled with women too beautiful to be real and run by a priestess named Madame Plu (Melinda Milton). The team is seduced by the women to come into the mansion, but leaving is definitely not guaranteed.
It’s another found footager. I know, you’re sick and tired of them. But just in case you aren’t, LILIN’S BROOD performs the found footage tango rather well. The story is played out on camera succinctly, giving a bit of back-story as the VICE like news crew describe the tale of the missing men and immediately get to work on tracking down the lead which takes them to the brothel. Everything happens on camera and while edits to different viewpoints are referred to, it’s an easy cheat in order to tell the story and doesn’t distract from it. Also, I liked the way the music that accompanied the film happens in the scene and isn’t supplied in post to intensify mood. Here, there is no invisible orchestra breaking the suspension of disbelief and keeping that suspension impenetrable is crucial in found footagers. Structurally, LILIN’S BROOD all works really well.
The main problem with LILIN’S BROOD is that it all feels familiar. The lead up feels a lot like “Safe Haven” sequence from V/H/S/2 (especially after Madame Plu and her escorts show their hand) with the prostitutes gone wrong sequence feeling like the famous “I Like You” sequence from the first V/H/S. There’s even a birthing sequence reminiscent of V/H/S/2’s “Safe Haven” bringing forth an unearthly child and a mad dash through the brothel almost identical to that sequence’s frantic ending. Pair that with makeup effects that are exactly like Del Toro’s uber-vampires in BLADE II and it’s hard not to feel like this is a film cobbled together from parts of better films.
The pace of LILIN’S BROOD is pretty good as is the acting from the cast. Everything feels pretty natural, which again adds to the crucial authenticity needed to convince you that this is footage found. While the actress playing Madame Plu went to the Eartha Kitt school of subtle acting and hams it up as the priestess running the brothel, the rest of the cast is really good at being entranced by the escorts, being scared, and running for their lives. LILIN’S BROOD is a structurally sound and decently done found footager, it just borrows from too many films in its own subgenre for its own good. But it gets bonus points for going with monsters that aren’t typical like vampires or zombies and for that memorable and unique vagina-apple poster.
Available on DVD and BluRay from Legless Corpse Films!
WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS (2015)aka CUANDO TU CARNE GRITE BASTA
Directed by Guillermo Martínez
Written by Guillermo Martínez
Starring Victoria Witemburg, Oscar Molinari, Javier Batic, Ricardo Marchioni, Alexia Encalada, Martín Espíndola, Alicia Julianez, Magalí Lanziano, Omar Musa
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Not many rape/revenge films begin with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, but WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS does. So I have to give this gritty little number from Argentina credit when it’s due; it’s got balls.
Martina (Victoria Witemburg) moves into a new home to get some peace and quiet to get her college homework done. Not one week into her new place and she finds herself abducted by a trio of deviants who see her walking to work. After undergoing brutal torture of the mental and physical kind, Martina is able to free herself and fight back against her captors.
Yup, this is your typical “victim fights pack against rapist” film. Not one of my favorite types of flicks to sit through because more often than not, the focus is on the gratuitous rape and assault of the woman, while the retaliation feels stapled on in the end to make it all feel like there’s a deeper meaning to the whole thing rather than simply callous exploitation. Unfortunately, WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS is more of the latter than the former as almost a solid hour is spend on the mistreatment, abuse, torture, and rape of Martina, leaving only the last twenty minutes for the redemption to finally occur. Simply looking at the time proportions, this definitely veers more towards exploitation than an actual tale of redemption as way too much time is focused on the psychological torture and multiple rapes this poor actress had to endure .
This is not the type of film for me. I honestly don’t know what type of filmgoer this is for, but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to meet them. While I have to admit, this is a slick looking film and technically sound in every way, the intent and purpose of the film is something I just don’t find entertaining at all.
A similarly themed film called BOUND TO VENGEANCE (reviewed here) was released last year. This film deals with the rape/revenge theme in a manner that is empowering as it centered on one woman’s revenge against her tormentors and what eliciting that type of revenge can do to a person. It’s a film that is nuanced and morally satisfying in that it doesn’t spend any time at all on the rape itself, and instead tells the powerful tale of a survivor trying to redeem herself. I’d recommend that film ten times over this one as this is a mean-spirited and heartless little bastard of a movie. After the ordeal of the first hour of WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS, the payoff of Martina’s revenge is doused in blood and gore, but it whizzes by way too quickly, almost like an afterthought. And while the film is technically well made, I’d rather revere WHEN YOUR FLESH SCREAMS as an afterthought itself than recommend it to anyone.
New this week on DVD from Midnight Releasing!
CUT HER OUT (2014)aka SPAVINE
Directed by Tiffany Heath
Written by Tiffany Heath
Starring Denton Blane Everett, Tiffany Heath, Natalie Jones, Jake Heath
Find out more about this film on Facebook here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While there’s some pretty unbelievable therapy going on throughout, CUT HER OUT ends up being just depraved enough to entertain if deeply bent psychology is your bag.
Dr. Ryan Andrews (Denton Blane Everett) decides to try some extreme therapy with his patient Darcy Baker (writer/director Tiffany Heath) who suffers from PTSD due to trauma she experienced as a child. Darcy also sleepwalks and has selective amnesia in regards to her abuse, so Dr. Andrews thinks it a swell idea to immerse Darcy back into the environment where she received the abuse. Upon arriving at the run down home, Andrews and Darcy discovers a small feral boy named Sam (Jake Heath) who seems to have received the same type of abuse Darcy did. Haunted by visions of the past, Darcy tries to fill in the pieces of her life she can’t remember while trying to keep her wits to her.
OK, having a background in counseling myself, I couldn’t ignore the horrific therapeutic practices going on in CUT HER OUT. In no way would any respected psychiatrist toss their client into the environment she was abused horrifically in. Immersive therapy makes for good cinematic drama, but it’s not realistic at all. On top of that, when they find the young child in the abandoned building, Child Services should and would have been immediately called to check the mental and physical health and well being of the child and he would be whisked away to safety. Instead, the doctor and patient decide to endanger the child and shack up with the little tyke for the remainder of the movie, despite the fact that Dr. Ryan had ample opportunity to do the right thing. I can suspend disbelief only so far and these plot holes are pretty hard to leap over. But without the above happening, there would be no movie, so I guess I have to go with it. Still, writer/director Heath should have worked a bit harder to come up with a more believable scenario.
That said, there are some dark and twisted things going on in this film. Heath does a great job in the lead and depicts a shattered woman attempting to put things back together. A lot of the drama works involving Darcy’s journey to remembering her past, though I do admit, the road to get to the revelation at the end is rather long in the tooth. The film takes its time and really does a good job of lulling you into what you think is real. I was taken aback by the final moments of this film. This film contains a gut punch I didn’t see coming and the heartbreaking and disturbing end will definitely move you.
CUT HER OUT is a tricky film to review. The fact that it involves psychology, my chosen profession, disappointed me due to the plot holes that keep the doctor, his patient, and the found child in the same locale for the duration of the movie. But even though it is hard, when I look over all that, there is a deeply disturbing psychological nightmare going on here and I think CUT HER OUT a film worth checking out because of it.
New this week on DVD/BluRay and digital download from Well Go USA Entertainment!
ESTRANGED (2015)aka JANUARY
Directed by Adam Levins
Written by William Borthwick and Simon Fantauzzo
Starring Amy Manson, Craig Conway, James Cosmo, Bob Duff, James Lance, Faye McLoughlin, Eileen Nicholas, Nora-Jane Noone, Simon Quarterman, Joy Sanders
Find out more about this film here
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
ESTRANGED may seem prim and proper on the surface, but that is only a thin finish on a truly twisted tale of familial horror.
After falling victim to a moped accident on a highway, January (Amy Manson) suffers amnesia, so her boyfriend Callum (Simon Quarterman, who was driving the moped at the time of the crash) brings her to her childhood home to meet her parents Albert (BRAVEHEART’s James Cosmo) and Marilyn (Eileen Nicholas) and her two siblings Laurence (James Lance) and Katherine (Nora-Jane Noone). But the longer she stays at this mansion in the moors, the more January begins to suspect that all is not right with this family she cannot remember.
Playing like an odd combination of DOWNTON ABBY and strangely enough, SPIDER BABY, where the protagonist (in this case January) comes to find out the family she is told she is related to is out of their collective gourds, ESTRANGED turned out to be a pretty solid thriller. A lot of that has to do with the truly exceptional cast, with James Cosmo playing the perverted and proud patriarch of this freaky family. His role is extremely brutal as the family wants to procreate, but doesn’t really want to go outside of their happy home to do so. Eileen Nichols is great as the mother who chooses not to see the horrors that transpire. Laurence (James Lance) portrays all kinds of insecurity and immaturity as the man-child who wants to be a veterinarian though he doesn’t want to bother with medical school and thinks he’s an alpha male of the house, as long as Daddy isn’t around. And little Katherine (Nora-Jane Noone) is equally memorable as the younger sister jealous of January’s return and shows it in a clever and passive-aggressive manner. Lastly, the carrier of the film, Amy Manson gives a strong performance as January who has to endure all of the punishment from this deeply flawed family.
What really got to me about this film is the juxtaposition of the prim and proper English lifestyle paired with the sleazy and bent happenings behind closed doors of this mansion. This is something that I’m sure occurred often, but seeing it unfold on screen is pretty shocking to see. It’s the same kind of bizarre pairing that made the book PRIDE & PREJUDICE & ZOMBIES so much fun.
There’s not a lot of blood or gore in ESTRANGED, but there are scenes that will definitely get under your skin. This is a more subdued thriller that is effective in luring you in right along with January and then skeeving you out as you witness her terrible ordeal. Check out ESTRANGED, it’s like the TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE family but they drink their blood stew with their pinky raised.
New this week on BluRay/DVD and On Demand from Dark Sky Films!
CONVERGENCE (2015)Directed by Drew Hall
Written by Drew Hall
Starring Clayne Crawford, Ethan Embry, Mykelti Williamson, Gary Grubbs, Chelsea Bruland, Catalina Soto-Aguilar Kind, Casey Myers, Laura Cayouette, Sam Medina, Alyshia Ochse, Luis Da Silva Jr., Vivi Pineda, Philip Fornah, Mike Kimmel, Ashton Leigh
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook here, and @frame29films
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While at times this film feels like it is all over the place, CONVERGENCE ends up being a rather fascinating odyssey about life, death, faith, shadows, and a whole bunch of bombs!
Ben (Clayne Crawford from TV’s RECTIFY) is a forensic investigator looking into a rash of bombings that are occurring in the Atlanta area. When he is called in on his day off to investigate a new bombing, he sees Daniel (Ethan Embry) fleeing the scene before another bomb goes off. Ben wakes up in a hospital, surrounded by nurses and his commanding officer (Mykelti Williamson). Though he wants to jump back into the case, strange happenings begin occurring in this hospital and he soon finds that the bomber (Embry) is at the hospital as well. What begins as a cat and mouse game between a cop and a mad bomber turns into something much more paranormal and even, existential.
I went through a myriad of emotions as CONVERGENCE played out in front of me. At first, I thought it would be an action thriller in the tradition of BLOWN AWAY, where a dedicated bomb expert relentlessly tracks a psycho bomber. And on the surface, that’s what this film is. But there is more going on here and without revealing too much about the plot and its many twists, I felt myself waiting and becoming rather impatient for this film to drop the other foot, so to speak. I could see one of the twists coming from the get-go and thankfully, after a while, the film lets the protagonist catch up. Surprisingly, that’s not the only secret this film was holding from the audience and when the second twist drops, I was actually quite surprised by it. So going from not knowing what the hell this movie was, to thinking I knew exactly it was, to being pleasantly surprised by what it was turned out to be quite the roller coaster for me. And each transition happens in a pretty comfortable and believable manner, in a storytelling sense, despite the fact that things get rather trippy as the plot unfolds. Props to writer/director Drew Hall for taking these bold narrative leaps and sticking the landing pretty darn well each time.
And while there is a spiritual core to this film, it’s not anything preachy about the whole thing. The main character doesn’t see the light and suddenly become a god-fearing man. Again, I feared for a moment that this was the direction the film was going and thankfully, it didn’t take that born-again Christian route. Instead, the film focuses on one man’s decision when to fight and when to move on from it, which is a much more inclusive story than something assigned to one particular faith.
All of this is vague, mainly because I don’t want to reveal the plot twists and turns, though I’m sure you’ll be able to put these twists together by watching the spoiler heavy trailer below. There’s a nice JACOB’S LADDER feel to this film and just mentioning that film in comparison probably gives way too much away. Crawford is great as Ben and is able to convey all of the stubborn, leading man tropes that is needed for this type of story. Embry once again dazzles and I am so happy about this actor’s comeback and his choices in genre films to do so. This isn’t his strongest of roles, but it shows the actor has both the physical and emotional chops to be a bad guy, despite his boyish demeanor. CONVERGENCE is a wild ride of a film that may not be successful in all of its beats, but I left this movie more impressed with the way it all plays out than I thought I would.
New this week on BluRay/DVD from Legendary/Universal Home Entertainment!
CRIMSON PEAK (2015)Directed by Guillermo Del Toro
Written by Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robbins
Starring Mia Wasikowska, Jessica Chastain, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver, Burn Gorman, Leslie Hope, Doug Jones, Jonathan Hyde, Bruce Gray, Emily Coutts, Alec Stockwell, Brigitte Robinson
Find out more about this film here, on Facebook here, and @CrimsonPeakFilm
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
While it’s not really big on scares, CRIMSON PEAK makes up for it with a rich and gorgeous look and fiendishly splendid acting from its top tier cast. Del Toro might not deliver the scares he had with CHRONOS or THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE or even PAN’S LABYRINTH, but he does offer up a tale that drips with a macabre flavor, reminiscent of only the best of Hammer films.
Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is the daughter of successful businessman Carter (DEADWOOD’s Jim Beaver) and seems happy to die unmarried as long as she can spend time writing fiction. But when an English socialite Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on the scene looking for investors in the red clay that is abundant on his land, she immediately takes notice. Thomas and Edith immediately take a liking to one another, much to the distaste of her father who smells a rat. But love conquers all and after an unfortunate incident, Edith and Thomas are thrown together and she moves back to England to his mansion which rests on a bed of red clay which seeps through the floor and walls and turns the snow blood red when it hits the ground. Unbeknownst to Edith, who received a message from her mother’s ghost as a child to avoid a place called “Crimson Peak,” she finds out that is the name of the place where Thomas’ mansion rests. Thomas and his clingy sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain) welcomes Edith to the new home, but it becomes evident that her father’s warnings to stay away from Thomas are valid and Edith is haunted by both the ghosts that haunt the halls of the mansion and the Sharpe siblings themselves.
CRIMSON PEAK plays like a decadent and lavish Hammer Film with all of the fancy trimmings, costumes, and décor. Being a fan of those types of films, I found every moment leading up to Edith’s discovery of the Sharpes’ evil intentions to be fun in a throwback sort of way. That said, the crowd who need a jump scare every two minutes are most likely going to find this elegant and elaborate slow burner a chore to get through. For me, I was engrossed in soaking in the tactile atmosphere and small details Del Toro added to his frames, but I understand that’s not what everyone wants in a horror film. Del Toro obviously set out to make a Hammer film with a much broader scope than the lavish castle sets that decorated those films and for me, at least he succeeded in doing so.
One thing missing from CRIMSON PEAK are the actual scares. The performances are fantastic and the whole thing sounds and looks great, but here, more so than in PAN’S LABYRINTH or Del Toro’s other spooky yarns, the effects just don’t feel scary. I understand Doug Jones did a lot of the motion capture and his lanky frame is noticeable here, but the CG smoke and ghouls just didn’t raise the hairs on me neck as they have in past Del Toro joints. This one is more about character and the lavish look of the place, which impressed, but I can acknowledge that I really didn’t find this one scary at all.
The film is rather perverse and diabolical in tone and there are some really horrific things involving how this tale of tainted love and twisted betrayal. The unflinchingly diabolical story really does make up for the lack of solid scares and ended up giving me chills that were definitely more palpable and “under your skinny” than most popular theatrical horror. I really liked CRIMSON PEAK, more so because of the rock solid performances by the cast. Hiddleston, Chastain, Wasikowska and Beaver (who I’m thrilled to see in such a substantial role here) are all fantastic. The themes are really effective and creepy, but they are not the kind of scares and creeps modern audiences are used to, so be prepared not to jump every few minutes, but definitely feel an overpowering sense of unease once the whole thing is over. For fans of old school Hammer horror, you’re in for a really succulent treat that looks good enough to bite into.
Advance Review: Recently won the True Grit Award at the Denver Film Festival 2015 and currently touring festivals!
DECAY (2015)Directed by Joseph Wartnerchaney
Written by Joseph Wartnerchaney
Starring Rob Zabrecky, Lisa Howard, Elisha Yaffe, Jackie Hoffman, Hannah Barron, Reese Ehlinger, Whitney Hayes, Jason Knauf
Find out more about this film here and @decayproject
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Meticulous and engrossing, DECAY is a film that involves some pretty horrific subject matter, but in the end, it perfectly exemplifies in a sometimes gorgeous, sometimes soul-crunching, and sometimes nightmarish manner.
Jonathan (Rob Zabrecky) is a strange young man. He works as a maintenance man at a local amusement park which is shut down for the season. Since his mother (Lisa Howard) passed away, his only brushes with others are his braggadocious buddy at work (Elisha Yaffe) and his neighbor (Jackie Hoffman) who stops in to give him frozen meals every week. His life is an orderly and controlled one, filled with OCD ticks like opening the door twice before entering or leaving through it and keeping collections of delicate flowers and keys he finds at work in his basement. His level life is upended when a pair of young girls break into his place thinking he is growing weed there and when one of the girls has an accident and ends up dead, Jonathan finds himself with an unclaimed body and an overwhelming need to connect with someone new. As Jonathan develops a relationship with this dead body, the rest of his orderly world begins to crumble around him.
DECAY is an amazing piece of filmmaking. Unfortunately, it deals with a subject matter that is going to turn off many, so a lot of people aren’t going to see this film about a man who falls in love with a corpse. But I’m not even talking about that ghoulish detail. I’m talking about how accurately and fantastically well this film depicts the subject of loneliness. I’m scared of many things; sharks, zombies, rats, bees, being chastised in public, but the number one thing I am afraid of is being alone and worse yet, dying alone. And I think, if you’re honest with yourself, I’m not the only one. By following Jonathan through his controlled and meticulous life, we see what it is like to walk in the shoes off a man who is utterly and entirely alone. Long scenes are pieced together showing the banality of Jonathan going about his life – taking his pills, hanging his found keys, watering his flowers, riding his tricycle (yes, he rides a tricycle) to work. When writer/director Joseph Wartnerchaney adds in the dead body that literally drops onto Jonathan’s doorstep, she just becomes another cog in the continuously but steadily spinning wheel of compulsion that keeps his fragile psyche together. Through repetitive cuts to his daily activities, he maps out the most convincing depiction of loneliness in cinema I’ve seen in quite some time.
And this is a beautiful film. Some of the compositions in the frame are breathtaking. Slo-mo shots of water hitting the petals of a blooming orchid. Arial shots of the segmented suburbs where Jonathan lives. The way the film shows the slow progression of time as Jonathan does his insane job of hand cleaning an entire amusement park; scraping bird crap off every bleacher and gum from under every table. Simply looking at this film is a treat for the eyes as it slows the world down and shows how repetitious it really is in its smallest details. There’s a scene where Jonathan washes the corpse, which is starting to stink and draw flies, that despite the grossness of it all, is lit by candles and red lights in a way that makes the whole thing simply eloquent. I know it sounds sick, but this is a beautiful movie. It’s just a beautiful movie about a man who falls in love with a corpse.
Rob Zabrecky is mesmerizing as Jonathan. Seeing his predictable life tossed into chaos with the introduction of this new dead person is engrossing to see unfold. Zabrecky makes you feel for his well being even while doing creepy things. As with MANIAC (and it’s modern remake), he’s the only POV we have here, and though he is uncomfortable with others and creepy as all get out, he still somehow convinced me to root for him because, in the end, he didn’t really do anything wrong (well, at last initially as he didn’t kill the girl, though he does lie to police looking for her body). DECAY deals with tough topics and there is a huge ick factor going on all the way through, but this painstakingly slow illustration of a life alone entranced me with its gorgeous cinematography, engrossing story, and talented star in Zabrecky.
And finally…gather round, youngsters, and let me take you back to a time before TV, when people relied on horrors transferred from their radios directly into your earholes! This week’s horror radio play is from the old “Light’s Out” series called “The Ball!”
See ya next week, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Look for our bi-weekly rambling about random horror films on Poptards and Ain’t It Cool on AICN HORROR’s CANNIBAL HORRORCAST Podcast every other Thursday!