Finding a good horror movie these days is a challenge. Particularly one that doesn’t require English-speakers to read captions or deal with bad overdubs. However there are a few horror movies that trickle out of English speaking film houses every year. In that few are even fewer ones worth seeing.
I decided to hit the iTunes store and rent a new movie that had come to my attention when looking through my Twitter feed. You may recall Scut Farkus from the 80s cult film “A Christmas Story.” No, not horror and not what I watched. However Scut, aka Zack Ward, had graced my timeline and was mentioning his new horror project called “Restoration.” I was intrigued and check it out.
Watching horror movies usually require a mixture of two important mindsets.
First is suspension of disbelief. You have to tell yourself not to nit-pick details because it is pointless and will ruin the movie. Just accept what is happening however far fetched it seems.
The second component of enjoying a horror movie is allowing yourself to be scared. You can’t take on the mentality you did (well I did) when you were in high school and took your date to a haunted house. No need to be a tough guy, you are watching the movie to get scared. If the movie is able to do it, let it happen. No reason to fight a few goose bumps or to occasionally jump out of your seat when something pops up unexpectedly.
In “Restoration” we have a blend of classic horror techniques to evoke the above reactions. They include things walking in creepy ways, loud noises, devil children, shadow figures and some good old fashion cult-type violence. This movie starts a bit abruptly with an odd encounter in a hospital by the female lead, played by Emily Roya O’Brien. Let me pause there to briefly comment on her character, Rebecca.
Rebecca comes off as a very peculiar person. I am not sure if this is because of how she carries herself in the real world or if there was a point to her being especially prickly. Granted having your neighbors in your house being odd would make me similarly less than pleasant. My point is, I found her demeanor to be off-putting.
This rolls me into another tangent. I am a terrible person, so of course I nearly always root for the bad guys. In this movie, I was hard pressed to feel any empathy at all for the protagonists. A big part of this film’s payoff should be watching the decline of Rebecca and her husband Todd (Adrian Gaeta.) Herein lies a problem with the casting. If you’ve never been around Nordic people you may not have had a chance to observe how differently they carry themselves. It can be a bit jarring for we North American folks. Maybe this is why I couldn’t really connect with Todd, who comes from a such an upbringing.
Ok, back to where I was before. Back to the hospital encounter. Did I mention a dude is clearly missing a chunk of his head? Rebecca is there lending comfort to the man, pleading for him to hold on. Not something you would generally see happen from a an ER doc (even a resident) but we will exercise that suspension of disbelief. [this will not be the last time]
The point of the scene seems to be to establish some sort of emotional link and understanding with Rebecca. Again though, her character comes off as unsympathetic. Meaning you cannot really sense her feeling truly upset about what she is experiencing but you are also not able to have sympathy or even empathy for her.
When you have two principals who will have various nasty things happen to them it is usually important to make sure that the audience can relate to them in some way. The film in one way or another missed the mark here.
I won’t bother going through all the plot points, just watch the movie. However you need to take note of the great creepy feeling you get from Harold and Francine. These are the characters that nailed it. You will have an immediate suspicion about them and it seems as if that is intentional. This isn’t a situation where there is a heel turn coming and you never saw it on the horizon. In this instance it is a heel turn that you sense and anticipate with some interest. When it does it is worth it.
Sarah Ann Schultz is Francine, the wife (or is she) of Harold (Ward). Schultz is delicious. We’ve all been around people who seem to revel in making people feel uncomfortable by being overly comfortable with them. That is Francine. Her forwardness is tempered by Harold’s eclectic but nice guy from next door kind of feel. [in fact, they do live next door]
Harold (Ward) is a madman. When he goes full on evil it is like opening a birthday present. You know that there is a devil lurking and we also know redheads do not have souls. So when his true intent is revealed, his pernicious grin solidifies it. At no point did I have any question he was the evil doer that was being portrayed.
The plot is interesting but a bit predictable. In this case though predictability is not a bad thing. It is a horror movie so you go into it with certain expectations.
The structure of the movie and the pace is just about right. The biggest issue in my view is that it takes way too long to get into the action. Too much time is spent trying to develop a relationship between the audience and the lovely couple who will ultimately have all hell break loose. I would guess that it became clear that there was a bit of an off-putting nature to the characters so they devoted too much time to try and get that connection.
Once things get moving the energy stays up, mostly. Some scenes feel long for no discernible reason. So much seems to focus on trying to force us to like the ole Todd and Rebecca. If that problem didn’t exist to begin with I think the pace and the ‘horror’ of watching bad things happen would have been more disturbing.
There were three cameos I have to point out. Being a MMA fan, I almost leapt from my chair when I saw the “King of Mean” on the screen. Keith Jardine makes an appearance as an orderly at a psych hospital. He was just intimidating enough and did a fairly good job.
Then it gets even better with Kristy Hill or as most (at least myself) know her, Miss Sophie Dee. When you need a beautiful woman to be a sexy, scantily clad devil worshiper she should be a forever go to girl. I could gush about how I actually said out loud to myself, “just her doing that could make any movie worth watching.” But I’ll refrain.
Finally there was an appearance by Pam Hyatt (you’ll at least know her voice.) She does a great creepy, demented, disturbed old woman who’s been locked in Keith’s hospital for a good long time.
So my basic take-aways? Not sure about the casting for our not so sympathetic ‘victims’. I think it hung up the flow of the movie on too many occasions. Bad guys are spot on. Cinematography was consistent and correctly conveyed the info needed (clearly though this isn’t about expansive vistas or breaking new ground.) A good mix of horror film tactics were employed for making you feel creeped out.
I give it a 6/10. Give it a watch, let me know what you think.