Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sella Turcica (2010)

After a series of mysterious incidents, Brad has returned home from active duty in Afghanistan. But there's something wrong with him: he looks sickly and prefers to stay alone in his room and his demeanor suggests that his condition is far worse than he's letting on. We sense that things are going to get a lot worse before long. I'm not sure we expect things to be so tedious before then.

Sella Turcica is the most recent offering from Toetag Films, an outfit that made their name on the August Underground series, a trilogy of fake snuff videos with highly realistic special effects. The series was one of those ideas that someone simply had to try sometime- a Tom Savini f/x student tricking the audience into thinking they were seeing real murders on film. But it's questionable that anyone needed to repeat the gag three times and, aside from the gore, the production values were really sub-par. You might not turn the videos off in horror, but it's hard not to fast-forward them in boredom.

So it's somewhat amazing how much their skills have improved. For one thing, the acting is better here than before. The star here is Camille Keaton, who is beloved among genre fans for the rape-and-revenge "classic" I Spit on Your Grave, in which she was raped and got revenge (Personally, I think the movie is trash). She's actually one of the weakest actors here though, with the strongest being the lead, played by Damien A. Maruscak, who is creepy but sympathetic throughout- until he's suddenly not sympathetic at all. In general, Sella Turcica has decent acting, moderately well written, believable and has a lot of that thing that most modern horror films lack: namely, atmosphere. There's a palpable sense of dread throughout the film as you wait to see how things are going to explode. And, when they do explode- only in the last fifteen minutes or so- things get very bad and the effects are simply mindblowing.

I do have some big complaints however. The first is that I wish they'd acknowledged Deathdream, a Canadian film from 1974 about Andy, a Vietnam vet who returns home after a series of mysterious incidents, but there's something wrong with him- he looks sickly and prefers to stay alone in his room, and his demeanour suggests that his condition is far worse than he's letting on. It explodes into violence. You get the idea. Updating Deathdream for the current war is a great idea, but why not acknowledge it? Secondly, the film is 100 minutes and they probably could have removed about ten minutes of Brad in his room with black junk oozing from his orifices and tightened the pace a bit in the process. The film is uncomfortable to watch and, sometimes, that's because of the sense of dread, but often it's because it's fucking boring.

Nevertheless, I see much improvement here and, in general, it's good to see a studio aiming at creating tough, ugly, unsettling horror movies. I just wish their plotting and editting was up to the level of their superb effects.

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