Director: Jerry J. White III
Cast: Raymond Creamer, Callie Ott, Schell M. Peterson
Running Time: 80 minutes
There are films that lull you into believing you know what you’re watching, only to upend those expectations. When done well, these can be immensely satisfying efforts. When done poorly, they tend to feel like sloppy messes. Jerry J. White III’s THE HORROR falls somewhere in between.
Based on a screenplay by lead actor Raymond Creamer, the film meanders through a set of incidents told primarily in flashback by Isabel Rademacher (Callie Ott). As Isabel recounts the issues plaguing her to her therapist (Schell M. Peterson), we’re introduced to a disastrous group outing.
Isabel and her twin brother Malcolm (Creamer) take an off-season trip to the family’s Michigan vacation property to close it up for the winter. Their parents recently perished in a car accident, which veils the trip in sorrow. To change the atmosphere, Callie invites along her boyfriend and her brother’s on-and-off gal pal.
Things work out poorly.
There are a number of clever narrative choices at work here, though many of them suffer in their execution.
Because our point of view character is, to a certain degree, an unreliable narrator, the film develops a pleasingly off-kilter feel. We’re privy to Isabel’s thoughts on her brother’s mental state, but her perspective is deceptively narcissistic in nature. As the character of Malcolm becomes clearer, so does the actual focus of the film.
White is far less interested in the horrific occurrence at the Michigan property than he is in Malcolm’s mental deterioration.
Creamer’s performance is the reason to see THE HORROR. The story is provocative, and to a certain degree, so is the structural depiction. White is also comfortable with ambiguity, which can develop a thrilling film when handled properly.
THE HORROR poses questions galore, but very little is answered. As a character study – a descent into madness – the film has a lot to offer. But too few of the performances meet the high-water mark set by Creamer.
As troublingly, White undercuts most of the dramatic tension you believe is being developed. This does less to subvert expectations than it does to puncture the excitement he’s built.
THE HORROR is available on digital VHX and limited edition VHS April 1.