Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: 3:33 AM: The Witching Hour

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2015
Images from the Internet

3:33 AM: The Witching Hour
Written and directed by Daniel Falicki
Rotomation Pictures / Sector5 Films
Chemical Burn / World Wide Multi Media
139 minutes, 2014

This is the second film I’ve reviewed by director Daniel Falicki (and have one more in the queue), and I’m actually quite impressed. He has shown some artistic flair in Awaken the Devil (2014; aka The Anti-American) and I was looking forward to view this epic horror comedy and see a new side to the man.

For this one, John Spinelli (Matthew J. Dennis) is basically a good guy who got into a bad situation with substances, and ended up being arrested, but that’s all backstory. Where we pick up is John being released and sent to a halfway house full of weirdos, including the uptight proprietor, Ethel Kranski (a humorously uptight Marly Green; “Your silence indicates consent! Do you understand?!”) and the kindly nun, Sister Mary (Sheri Beth Dusek, who is also a producer and co-writer), taking care of the spiritual side. Others include two brothers named Robert and Bob who drink a lot of their homemade beer and a couple into Cosplay and gaming, to name a few. The small town locale of events is called Rapid Falls, and I’m guessing it’s supposed to be Iowa due to a 515 area code shown on a television

Matthew J. Dennis as John Spinelli
In the outside world, his girlfriend Ruby (Liz Nolan) is not pleased with him and his legally forced upon him job as a bag boy at a supermarket (though it looks like the location is actually a liquor store, but I digress…), where the name on his apron is misspelled “Jon,” which introduces some other bizarre characters. Somehow, you get the feeling worlds are going to collide, Jerry.

Next to the halfway house is an century-long abandoned abode, which always has a mysterious mist around it that no one seems to notice. And at 3:33 AM, there is some mysterious light flashing action going on across the way, which leads to gruesome murders (off-screen) in which people have limbs removed (and in one case, the person had been beaten to death with their own arm; nice touch, no pun intended).

Is there any reason to think our chooch of a hero is not the one who is going to get blamed? There is a police detective on his trail, but we know there is something more sinister going on. Hell (again, no pun intended), this is a flippin’ horror film, after all. What I especially appreciate is that there is a lot of assumptions (just shy of red herrings) the viewer (okay, me) can make for certain reasons I won’t go into, so no spoilers, but the film doesn’t lead where you expect. I’m grateful for that. There are some loose ends (e.g., why did this mystery pick John?), but overall it’s a pretty fun ride.

The performances are actually quite well done. Despite the occasional scenery chewing, the leads – including Dennis, Nolan and Chris Kotcher as Father Stark – do an excellent job at it. This is especially true of Dennis, despite moments of madness, shouting and going a bit off the rail (because of the events in the story), but generally he’s sympathetic and believable, even when he’s being a stronzo to others.

Part of what makes this a fun film is not just the acting, but some of the dialog. Sure, there is the (racist/xenophobic) comic relief of a character titled Sgt. Shithead (Jason Roth, whose performance was very powerful in Awaken the Devil), but there’s lot to listen to if you pay attention. This is considered a comedy, but many times the humor is very subtle, such as playing with names or lines you could easily miss if not pay any mind.

For me, the one flaw was the length. Two hours and 18 minutes was just too long to keep the attention totally focused. If it was tightened to a reasonable 90 minutes or so, I can see this being even more betterer, and it was pretty good as it is. A few scenes lagged that could have been tightened (e.g., while everyone was waiting for the 3:33 AM time), but I’m glad I saw it anyway, and would recommend it.


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