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Friday, March 25, 2016

THE HORROR -- Movie Review by Porfle

It's called THE HORROR (2015), but anyone expecting the usual gore, jump-scares, or other horror movie stuff will be disappointed.  What the title actually means, in fact, is the movie's final, tragic reveal.

Not to say that there isn't anything scary about it, but this subtle, low-key, character-driven tale of one man's slow descent into madness while his sister looks on helplessly generates more of a growing sense of unease than visceral thrills or sensationalism. 

Isabell Rademacher (Callie Ott) tells the story to her sympathetic psychiatrist Kristin (Schell M. Peterson) about how she and her twin brother Malcolm (co-scripter Raymond Creamer) lost their parents in a tragic auto accident which Malcolm witnessed, and how tying up the loose ends of their earthly affairs triggers painful memories.

A visit to the family's vacation lakehouse with Isabell's boyfriend Chris (Chris Oliver) and Malcolm's maybe, maybe-not girlfriend Annie (Lexi Moeller) along for the ride not only results in strained relations between the couples but also leads to a terrifying home invasion by two men wearing gas masks which changes both the twins' lives forever.

(There's a subtle feeling of paranoia right from the start, since we know from Isabell's account that there's going to be a traumatic "break-in" at some point.)

While Isabell struggles to get on with her life after the incident, Malcolm is mired in an ever-darkening mental state that's centered around the lakehouse.  Isabell's flashbacks to his downright creepy-as-hell behavior, including his furiously chopping holes in the frozen lake at night and reaching into the freezing water in a frantic search for one of their attackers' discarded gas masks, have a chilling "all work and no play make Jack a dull boy" quality about them.

These scenes of the bleak, wintry Michigan lake setting--surrounded by empty summer houses with a virtual ghost town nearby--have an oppressive gloom which adds to the film's melancholy, ominous mood. Direction and cinematography are lean and effective throughout but never moreso than here, where nature itself seems to reflect Malcolm's own mental and spiritual hypothermia. 

What happens later when the apprehensive Isabell's personal account veers abruptly into firsthand experience for psychiatrist Kristen leads to the film's nailbiting payoff with yet another home invasion. 

Here, at last, the film's deliberate pace works its way to a higher level of tension that stays taut until, finally, the darkly suspenseful ending allows us take a deep, shivery breath.  (This, despite the fact that most of the action takes place offscreen and we see only the aftermath.)

Director Jerry J. White III gets some good performances from the cast, especially considering that this film is the feature debut for several of the lead actors.  Raymond Creamer, who plays Malcolm, wrote the literate script along with White and Sarah Carman and managed to invest it with some interesting characters and dialogue.

Two "Blair Witch"-o-vision scenes involving a ghostly legend on a nearby bridge still have me pondering what the heck they mean, but at any rate they make pretty good bookends to the story.

That story wasn't nearly as thoroughly resolved as I would've liked, yet I didn't feel as though I'd been left hanging at the end--even though that's exactly what it does.  Mainly, THE HORROR left me in a very pensive mood.  It's a very pensive movie.

Available on Digital VHX and Limited Edition VHS April 1
Order The Horror on VHX Download
Order The Horror on VHS

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