HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: EXPOSURE (2018)

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EXPOSURE (2018)

Flick finds a young couple, James (Owen Lawless) and artist Myra (Carmen Anello), traveling to a remote cabin in the woods…which is never a good idea in a horror movie…to work on repairing their relationship. The cabin was the home of James’ grandparents (Lynn Lowry and Bruce Smith), till his grandmother was murdered and his grandfather disappeared after going mad. How these two thought this was a good spot for date weekend is the film’s biggest mystery. Once there, Myra begins to hear voices and suffer time losses, while James gets bitten by a strange creature and begins to transform into something unearthly. Relationship problems are now the least of their worries.

Cabin in the woods horror is directed by Austin Snell from his script with Jake Jackson. It’s a noble effort and Snell directs it well enough despite the scatterbrained story. It’s hard to believe anyone would go to a cabin with such an unpleasant personal history, no matter how picturesque it might be. The scenes between the couple are done well and once things start to get going, there are a few spooky moments. It is somewhat atmospheric. The story is where the film has it’s biggest drawbacks. There is something supernatural going on at the cabin, but we never get any kind of explanation, or hint, as to what. If there is some kind of demonic presence, then what is the mutant fish creature that bites and ultimately transforms James? His grandfather apparently went mad, yet James turns into a monster. What exactly is going on here? We never find out. The climax was also a bit of a head scratcher, as it’s not clear if the grandparents returned, or Myra is seeing past events. Again, what exactly is going on here? On a technical level, the film looks good on a supposed $20,000 budget and the make-up FX are well done. There is also a cool electronic score by Joshua Luttrell that is very 80s. With a better script and story, Snell might deliver something solid. Here things are a bit too much of a mess, story-wise, to really click.

As for our cast, pretty Carmen Anello does a good job as Myra. She’s a likable character and she makes a good final girl. She comes across as a real person. The actress is also a trooper, as the credits list her as part of the SPFX make-up crew and also playing “Grandfather Creature.” On a low budget film like this, one can find themselves wearing many hats. Owen Lawless is fine as James. He and Anello have a decent chemistry and it is in the early scenes when the character’s are going through some emotional awkwardness, Lawless seems the most natural. Bruce Smith and Lynn Lowry play the grandparents and they are seen in flashbacks and possible hallucinations, it’s not clear.

Exposure isn’t a great movie, but it’s one where the effort is noticeable and adds some charm. It’s heart is in the right place and the filmmakers try hard. On a production level, it looks good on a low budget, has some solid make-up FX and the cast, especially lead Carmen Anello, are effective. The story is where the flick suffers, as it’s not ever clear as to what is actually going on here. Some of it, like creature James firing his nails at Myra like knives, gets a bit silly. This indie horror is still worth a look if you like low budget flicks and enjoy seeing filmmakers getting their movies made, even if not totally successfully.

Flick is available to stream on Amazon Prime and to buy on Scream Team Releasing’s website… https://screamteamreleasing.com/

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) axes, mostly for effort.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: TORTURE CHAMBER (2013)

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TORTURE CHAMBER (2013)

I like the films of New Jersey native Dante Tomaselli, they are an acquired taste as Tomaselli does not adhere to a traditional narrative and his films can follow a more dream…or nightmare…like structure at times. I would not call them incoherent, they do have a story, but his style of telling and editing that story is more avant garde. His strong points are his sound and visual design and he achieves a lot with these elements and even if his films are a little hard to follow at times, they do produce some very spooky sequences. His latest film Torture Chamber is no different although it is the closest one of his films has come, so far, to having a more traditional story narrative though, ironically, it also might be his least interesting…though still very disturbing at times.

The story is of Jimmy Morgan (Carmen LoPorto) a 13 year old boy whose religious mother (Christie Sanford) believes has a demon inside and as Jimmy has the ability to burn people and things with his mind, she might be right. After himself being burned in an incident with playmates that got nasty and burning his own father to death, Jimmy is sent to an institution where he wins over a group of children from the burn unit who are all scarred like him and turns them into followers who will do anything he asks…which includes kidnapping, torturing and murdering those who wronged him once he and his disciples escape and burn the institution down. Now no one who has crossed Jimmy’s path are safe, from the mother he blinded, to his priest brother (Richard D. Busser), to his doctor (Vincent Pastore). Jimmy is coming for them all and a cruel fate awaits.

While the film can be very gruesome at times, it is not torture porn as the scenes of torment are few and far between and don’t last long. The camera never lingers for long periods of time on the victim’s suffering as Tomaselli is less concerned with the gross out and more with the creepy visuals which are very effective. As writer, director, producer and sound designer he makes some unique movies and while this flick is definitely in his off-key style, it is also his most basic in structure. The weaknesses here, despite some very disturbing sequences, is lack of character development, poor dialog and acting and since this is the least surreal of his films…though it is still pretty out-there with it’s band of murderous children stalking victims and bringing them back to an abandoned castle to torment…it is more reliant on a more classic narrative style which is not Tomaselli’s forte. You can get away with a more avant garde style in a film that is more surreal to begin with, but it you want to tell a more traditional horror movie story, it needs a bit tighter narrative structure to be effective. Events are shown to us out of order, which makes following the story a bit awkward and also hinders any suspense as we are flashing back and forth. When something more surreal in nature happens, it usually turns out to be a character nightmare and this film may hold a record for characters waking suddenly out of bizarre dreams. So often, that we come to expect it. There are certainly some disturbing and very creepy moments, mostly derived from the visuals, but poor dialog, sub-par acting and the jumpy narrative really kept me from being really drawn in and spooked on a more consistent level, despite the depraved story of murderous children. We also don’t get to know any of the characters well enough to like or become endeared to them and we need to, to care about their fates.

I still liked this film, but to a lesser degree then his Satan’s Playground which was more surreal, but somehow more involving. The film looks great with the combination of Tomaselli’s shot composition and Timothy Naylor’s cinematography. And while it is atmospheric already, we get additional atmosphere from the director’s sound design and the music he wrote with Allison Piccioni and Kenneth Lampi. Again, the weaknesses here is lack of character development and telling a more straightforward horror story that doesn’t benefit from Tomaselli’s offbeat narrative style.

The cast range from good to terrible. A very wide range of performance level. LoPorto and Busser stand out the best with the young LoPorto making a really creepy Jimmy under the scarred make-up and Busser being effective as his man of the cloth brother. Sanford goes a bit over the top as their mother, but the character is a bit unhinged anyway, so it doesn’t standout too intrusively. Pastore is here strictly on a paycheck level and also gets some of the more stilted dialog. Probably cast for his marquee value as an ex ‘Soprano’, he just doesn’t seem comfortable here. Lynn Lowry is pretty awful as Lisa, one of Jimmy’s teachers and thankfully her part is small and Ron Millkie’s Dr. Thompson  is only marginally better, but also a smaller role, so damage is minimal. The rest of the supporting players/victim’s are adequate though I have to admit the kids playing Jimmy’s ‘flock’ were sufficiently creepy.

So, while still an interesting film from an interesting filmmaker, Dante Tomaselli delivers a horror that is very effective at times, but not as successful in maintaining our emotional investment with his off-key narrative style. It is his most professional looking and least surreal film to date, but in a way, also his least intriguing and involving for it. I still liked this film to a decent degree. It has some very disturbing and very spooky scenes and visuals, but the sum of the parts is greater then the whole and while it is overall his most mature film as a director, it is, at the same time, his least interesting as a filmmaker. Still a fan and eager to see what he comes up with next. I still believe one of these films from Tomaselli will hit all the right buttons and he might just deliver a future classic.

2 and 1/2 scary masks.

torture chamber rating

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