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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

WICHITA -- Movie Review by Porfle

What's this? An imaginative new variation on the old "a group of people in a secluded cabin/house/camp get terrorized by a stalker" yarn?  Why, you could've knocked me over with a shovel, which is what happens to one or two of the ill-fated characters in Candy Factory's upcoming DVD release WICHITA (2016). 

Not only does it add a new wrinkle to an old formula, but directors Justyn Ah Chong and Matthew D. Ward, working from Ward's original screenplay, manage to make it all quite watchable with tension and suspense to spare.

Jeb (Trevor Peterson, GRIZZLY PARK, SKY) is the creator of a children's cartoon show, "Amy and the Aliens", that's sagging in the ratings.  So his surly boss orders him to spend a month in a house in the woods with a writing team, and, in the midst of brainstorming their heads off, churn out thirty excellent scripts in thirty days.  Or else.

Being that the show is Jeb's baby, and that he's somewhat of a baby himself--narcissistic, insecure, paranoid, maybe a tad schizo (and those are his good qualities)--he manages to alienate everyone involved, especially when they'd rather have a little fun now and then instead of laboring 24 hours a day inside a pressure cooker. 

Some of them, like overaged frat boy Billy (Christopher Wolfe), even want to have--SEX!  What's worse, he has it with Jeb's long-time heartthrob Raven (Persia White, "Girlfriends") while Jeb watches via one of the many hidden cameras placed throughout the house.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Jeb's a big-time voyeur and he's putting together a "behind-the-scenes" film about their little forest retreat. 

Meanwhile, he gleefully exerts power over another member of the team by blackmail (thanks again to his hidden-camera obsession), and still another through even more sinister means.  The first half of the story, in fact, is pretty much us watching Jeb's sanity and his standing within the group--who all pretty much despise him except for a supportive older lady named Joan (Melinda Lee)--withering away as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic and vindictive.

Eventually things come to a head when Jeb is fired over the phone by the mean boss and flees to the bosom, so to speak, of his mom.  Two things happen: (1) we're treated to a special appearance by 70s cult actress Sondra Blake (Robert's ex) as Mama, playing the part of the stereotypical "religious fanatic" to the delicious hilt (she's awesome), and (2) Jeb finally goes off the deep end. Really off.  Really deep.

When Jeb decides it's time to "wrap things up", so to speak, that's when WICHITA kicks into high gear and turns into the taut psycho-thriller we've been hoping for all along.  It never goes over the top, never gets too melodramatic, implausible, or gratuitously violent (it is violent, but not as an end in itself), and plays out the last riveting thread of the story until we're hanging on every moment. 

Performances are uniformly good, including Demetri Goritsas as Clark, a recovering alcoholic living in fear that Jeb will tell his ex-wife he's fallen off the wagon, and Caitlin Gerard as Natalie, the bratty, spiteful daughter of the show's executive producer who voices the cartoon's main character.

Sondra Blake, of course, is a special occasion unto herself as Jeb's mom.  As Jeb, Trevor Peterson helps carry the film with a fascinating and at times almost "Joker"-like performance. 

WICHITA isn't quite blockbuster material, and it took a second viewing for me to really begin to appreciate its nuances.  But it's head-and-shoulders above most of the "killer in the woods" dreck stalking the DVD racks.  And it's deadly fun, too.  

Type: DVD//Digital HD (iTunes, Amazon, Google Play) 
Running Time: 85 mins.
Rating: N/A
Genre: Horror
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: 5.1 Surround Sound

Available on DVD and Digital HD Platforms
Including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play

Street Date: June 20, 2017

Read our original coverage


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