Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"A film that feels very immediate and real despite its extreme premise."

One of the strangest questions that young survivors of child abuse get asked - with surprising frequency - is how aspects of their childhood compared to those of children in normal situations. How would they know? What's normal is learned, not hardwired. Children adapt to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Boy Adam (Gavin White) feels uncomfortable about the way his father brings home strangers, tortures and dismembers them, but a lot of children feel uncomfortable about things adults do - sometimes very mundane things - and just like them, he sullenly accepts it. Until he meets a stranger who gently persuades him that he has the right to make his own choices.

Is it possible to help somebody who is in the middle of a crisis situation, as opposed to picking up the pieces after they've already decided to make a change? That's the question asked in a group that is more used to dealing with issues like alcoholism than serial killing. Not quite anticipating what they're getting themselves into, they set out to try and help the boy - but the father, Artik (Jerry G Angelo), whose moral universe has been informed chiefly by comic books, is a stranger to the Christian concept of mercy. The only thing this powerful, charismatic and deeply dangerous patriarch respects is old fashioned heroism. Armed only with their faith, can any of the group members hope to reach him? And what will happen to the boy when his transgression is discovered?

There are any number of horror films out there about dysfunctional families and, indeed, this is really where the torture porn subgenre began. What distinguishes the better ones is style. This film isn't afraid to get nasty but doesn't spend too much time on that side of things, writer/director Tom Botchii Skowronski apparently understanding that it's no substitute for story or character. He also knows better than to make Artik a mere thug. It takes intelligence to keep on getting away with what he does - and to keep an audience interested. Angelo handles the role well, more convincing than most as a character who is comfortable with himself and with his choices. The standout performance, however, comes from Lauren Ashley Carter - barely recognisable from her roles in 2017's Imitation Girl - as Artik's loyal but emotionally unstable wife. Her physical acting, especially in the fight scenes, somehow makes poignant what could easily have been merely comical, whilst the mixture of fragility and resilience that she brings to her character contributes something extra to the narrative.

Combined with Skowronski's energetic direction. these factors create a film that feels very immediate and real despite its extreme premise. The power of this tale is in the telling. Skowronski knows how to grab and hold the viewer's attention and he doesn't need to rely on shock or on clever twists to make it happen. Artik plays out like a true story distorted by time and teenage whispers, full of haunting images, the more disturbing because of the horrors it only implies and their ordinariness.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2019
Share this with others on...
A comic book obsessed serial killer teaches his son how to get away with a series of brutal murders until the boy befriends a mysterious man who threatens to expose everything.

Director: Tom Botchii Skowronski

Writer: Tom Botchii Skowronski

Starring: Chase Williamson, Jerry G Angelo, Lauren Ashley Carter, Matt Mercer

Year: 2019

Runtime: 78 minutes

Country: US


Grimmfest 2019

Search database:

Related Articles:

The magpie