Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Review: Decay

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2016
Images from the Internet

Edited and directed by Joseph Wartnerchaney
Uncork’d Entertainment / Ghost Orchid Films
98 minutes, 2015 / 2016

On a subtextual level, this psychologically unnerving film asks the question, how far would you go for company if you were lonely? Add some mental instability into the mix, and the margin of extremity is certainly sure to rise, especially in genre cinema.

Rob Zabrecky as Jonathan
Jonathan (Rob Zabrecky, who was also the singer/bassist for the group Possum Dixon in the 1990s) has a case of OCD, where he has to line up everything just right most of the time, opens and closes things twice, and has a series of locks on his door that would make one of the old ladies in The Producers (1967) jealous. He definitely has a bit of a Norman Bates vibe to him, with his tall, lanky appearance and self-uncomfortableness.

Lisa Howard as Mother
Part of this, though, is a form of PTSD after growing up with an uber religious and mentally unstable (bi-polar or depressive, is my guess) mom (Lisa Howard). She is extremely possessive of her son, and will not let him be himself (i.e., a little boy). She mocks and punishes him severely for the slightest mistake. She rebukes him with lines like, “An unlocked door is an evil door.” Part of this begs the question of whether his – well, let’s call it insanity – is nature (hereditary) or nurture (trauma).

Jackie Hoffman as the Neighbor
There are some definite correlations between them, such as his while mother collecting those little spoons you can buy at gift shops, he gathers lost keys and uses them for art projects in his basement, where he also grows and obsessively photographs orchids. During daytime he works as a groundskeeper at an amusement park in Aurora, Colorado (a suburb of Denver where a shooter killed people in a theatre showing a Batman film in 2012), that is preparing to open for the season. There, he shares his lunch with his exact opposite: a loud-mouthed and boorish womanizer (Elisha Yaffe) who is always talking about his conquests. The last person in his life is a neighbor (Jackie Hoffman, who you are bound to recognize as she is often cast as the nosy Jewish neighbor or law professional in television shows).

Hannah Barron as Katlyn
Well, that is only partially true. There is another person who intrudes and has a major effect on his life. A teenage neighbor, Trish (Whitney Hayes) and her visiting friend Katlyn (Hannah Barron) break into Jonathan’s basement to look around and check out the weirdo (the actual motive is either not give or I just missed it), and thanks to some unfortunate circumstances in the first five minutes of the film so I’m not giving anything away, Katlyn ends up dead on his basement floor.

In his own twisted way, he now has a friend of sorts, similarly to Creep Creepersin’s Frankenstein (2009). But corpses rot, and he’s into neatness. Will his delusions trump his OCD, or vice versa? And will it calm him down or lead him to manic phases and do more harm to himself and others? All these questions and more are addressed in interesting and imaginative ways that impressed me, writing wise.

Many of the characters echo each other, such as the neighbor talking trash about other neighbors in a similar way that his mom warned him as a child (well played by Reese Elingher), or his co-worker proving his mother right about wild women, and I really wanted to punch that guy out; I’ve actually worked with people like that, and it’s both annoying and depressing to talk (or have to listen) to someone that shallow.

Much of this mirroring is part of how well the script is written, but I’ll get back to that shortly. The whole cast is excellent, with Zabrecky giving Jonathan a really nice and somber tone, without depressing this viewer, or making me tired of the character. There was just the right amount of pathos and creep factor to keep the attention sharp. Zabrecky is a good looking guy, so the dichotomy of the outside and inside makes it even more intriguing.

It takes a while (and worth the wait), but eventually the gore level starts to increase as time and rot becomes more noticeable. There is some excruciatingly unnerving visuals as the physical decay progresses. She’s the yin of the physical decay, and he’s the yang of the mental one, balancing nicely as they both slide into a kind of sludge. Really nice SFX match the beautiful way it is lovingly shot, including an occasional artistic edge that enhances rather than overdoes the events. There are a number of really decent jump-scares as well.

At probably about 10-15 minutes too long, that’s my only “complaint.” The film has a beautiful look to it, the editing and lighting are sharp, and it is very well written. The ending was an extremely nice touch, and did not go for the obvious out, and I am extremely happy about that.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this film, and so if you get the chance, it’s a solid excursion. And realizing that it is the director’s first solo feature effort, well, wow.

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