Thursday, January 6, 2011
RELEASE DATE: 2009
SCORE: 3 out of 4
This is a well made and visually striking supernatural tale of a family unraveling the pieces of a young man's life that led up to his apparent suicide. The role of the mother is a stereotypical uptight Christian, consistently in dour long dresses and prominent cross-wearing. Fortunately, the actress, Carolyn Hauck, transcends the cliched trappings and delivers a stellar performance. She comes across as a clever, instinctively canny mom, yet also delivers a profound sense of frailty, as she is inflicted with night terrors and disturbing episodes of sleep-walking -- she pulls this off very convincingly. Her guilt, paranoia, and obsession are really what carry this film. While most of the cast is quite capable, she definitely comes away as the strongest.
Anyway, It quickly becomes apparent that her son, "Sean Michaels," (I suppose the production team never heard of Shawn Micheals, but this had me laughing every time they said the name -- which was frequently!), dabbled, or was possibly quite deeply involved, in black magick and left-hand path occultnik stuff. Yet it soon becomes apparent that his death was not the end of the dark troubles he unleashed.
Early on, the film suffers from being over-stuffed with montages of "found footage" of SHAAWWWWN MICCHEAALLS as a happy go-lucky college kid before he turned all dark and evil. This grainy boring nonsense is contrasted with scenes of Mother Helen wracked with guilt, pouring through his crazed notebooks and hunting for clues. Although a devout Christian, she seems unable, at first, to sense the obvious evil black magic trappings that surround her son's death. I'm not sure if this is quite believable or not; why do people in horror movies seem to never notice that there's ghosts or demons or Satan or whatever involved in the events that happen to them? I mean, if I found my son's secret stash of stuff and it was notebooks with crazy William Burroughs cum Aleister Crowley type scribblings and creepy newsprint cut-and-pastes as well as 16mm footage of secret ritualistic sex orgies - ya know I might just suspect that he could have been fucking around with black magic!! (I know, call me crazy...)
Well anyway, it fortunately doesn't take too long before she suspects something spooky is afoot and that's when the movie starts to really pick up. There are a lot of very creepy sets and unsettling visual effects, and some quality gore. The plot is fairly bog standard and predictable, aside from getting a little complicated at the end (and a little too light on the exposition about just what the kooky culties were up to), but the strong characters and captivating visuals kept me from yawning. I have to make a note, however, of the exceptionally cornball performance of Elizabeth Holmes, who's idea of acting sinister is apparently to channel Pearl Forrester from MST3K...
All in all it was quite good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend it and its on Netflix streaming, so if you have that, you have no excuse not to watch it!