Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
I realise I’m in an anally retentive minority of slaves to OCD here, but the sight of a new distributor on a DVD spine in my Video Store always gives rise to a shriek of excitement. Well, a quizzically raised eyebrow at least. I mentioned Gilt Edge Media a little while back when they debuted their genre acquisition The Curse of Downers Grove back in March. Despite a Brett Easton Ellis script, it wasn’t the best, but nevertheless it was interesting addition to a new label that would soon after add the much lauded Henry Rollins movie, He Never Died, to their roster.
A quiet couple of months have since passed, but a glance at the forthcoming attractions for this newbie distro reveal some exciting wares coming our way. In September alone, there’s a little Eric Roberts goodness in Joker’s Poltergeist, some cannily titled found footage in The Purging Hour, and a pair of Asylum grot-taculars with San Andreas Quake and Road Wars. First up, and residing in the DVD section of UK supermarket ASDA for its first few weeks before general retail release is THE INSOMNIAC.
Life is good for John Figg (Eddy Salazar). An assets manager for Life Assure, a recent promotion sees him upscaled to a new office, complete with the requisite pat on the back from the his boss (John Heard). However, after someone breaks into his home, and takes all of his material and sentimental possessions, he develops a severe case of insomnia and begins to feel that the people around him are not as trustworthy as they appear to be.
Ironically, The Insomniac kept me awake. Not so much with any degree of fear or nagging psychological trauma, more so just with the question of where it fits in the realm of categorization. It transcends so many genres, but ultimately belongs in the only place it could do – Suburban Gothic. Defined by Bernice Murphy as a sub-genre that “Dramatises anxieties… featuring suburban settings, preoccupations and protagonists”, John’s alarming descent into mental anguish perfectly embodies Murphy’s framework.
Salazar, who co-wrote the script with Peter Kenneth Jones, fits perfectly into the shell of John Figg. He’s a fascinating character, who with able support from the ever reliable Heard, not to mention an (almost) against type Danny Trejo as a prospective investor, turns in a chilling portrayal of paranoia. There’s a point in The Insomniac, about two-thirds in, where the movie teeters on the brink of success or failure, but, with a final two reels that delve continually deeper into this dark abyss of psychosis, I have to say this was an immensely satisfying ninety minutes of one man’s hysteria.
Naively I happened to rip of the shrink-wrap off THE NESTING this week with a degree of excitement. With cover art that boasts a stark similarity to Brian Netto’s awesome under-the-radar DTV’er Delivery: The Beast Within, for a moment I was transported to that outlandish world of hope and possibility, but then I read that the pull-quote was from Scream: The Horror Magazine, and I was brought swiftly back to reality. That’s not to say that all films that receive this endorsement are of questionable quality, it’s just that with my own experience of Britain’s biggest selling horror mag giving out quotes to films they’ve yet to see, this critical lottery doesn’t exactly fill me with optimism.
When Doug’s fiancée Lori is killed in a tragic car accident, he retreats to their isolated farmhouse in the hope of coming to terms with his loss. Left to grieve amid years of memories, Doug realizes he has not returned to their deserted abode alone. As he learns the tragic history of the abandoned home, supernatural forces leave him fearing for his sanity, and reveal a secret that Lori took to her grave.
Quinn Saunders’ film fits into place among a type of horror film that are collectively bending the bottom shelf with the weight of their mediocrity. I must also add that for this critic, this colourless conveyor belt of average that peppers the Junkyard weekly, leads to the greatest amount of time spent with my head in my hands, rocking back and forth while I drum my temples for adjectives to describe the pedestrian nature of the content under the microscope.
Waxing lyrical about high art is easy as you let your heart do your typing, while slating the scrapings is surprisingly cathartic in its spleen-venting satisfaction. The unexceptional, or perhaps more conventionally the two-star movie, is just that. Not one to watch, but not necessarily one to avoid, just one to be nominally aware of.
As with The Insomniac, the gradual psychological breakdown of the main character, Doug, does pique your interest simply for the reason of voyeuristic curiosity. His crazy visions, which while vivid and occasionally a little unnerving, just seem to lack the dynamism to make them truly horrifying. Therein lies the key issue with the movie; pitched and marketed as a horror movie, the tropes we’ve come to expect are largely absent, and instead Saunders’ film wears the cloak of a drama with faint elements of the supernatural. Despite its one-paced nature and struggling to escape from plastic bubble of blandness, The Nesting is still not a bad film, but it is firmly entrenched in the unrecommendable world of mediocrity.
All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on the 8th August 2016
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