Saturday, August 8, 2015

In short: The Demon’s Rook (2013)

This is quite clearly one of the very best pieces of micro budget gory horror movies I’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure it’s one of the best micro budget movies of its kind ever made. And really, given the mix of energy, bizarre to silly and utterly enjoyable things visible on screen, I don’t even think narrowing it down to just micro budget horror is necessary. Director/writer/effects maker/male lead (his wife and creative partner Ashley Jo Sizemore being the female lead)/etc. James Sizemore has created horror fan-nip of the highest order, a movie that makes so much of its small budget I’d be grinning happily about that if it were the only thing the film did oh so right. To make short work of the plot, just imagine a late 70s/early 80s piece of gory Italian horror displaced into a stretch of woods in the actual US South with added elements of demonic wizardry and some trippy moments right out of Jodorowsky, and you’ll be prepared for what’s coming as much as possible.

Of course, one isn’t truly prepared for The Demon’s Rook once it gets going, the obvious love for horror movie classics that only seldom gets in the way of the film building its own mythology and its own personality out of the pieces it has found and loved elsewhere, and the insane joy of splattering fake blood. Sizemore’s physical effects are pretty incredible here, not looking “realistic” in the sense boring people need in their movies about rampaging demons but made with such an eye for the telling detail and with such a breadth of different demon and creature designs it’s overwhelming in all the best ways.

The film’s photography and editing (both done by Tim Reis) are equally praiseworthy, with so many clever, often bizarre and dream-like, uses of simple digital video techniques, it wouldn’t need the moody and strange (that’s always a compliment coming from me) lighting – lots of blue and green of course, in absolute defiance of the rule of teal and yellow –, the heaves of dry ice fog to get me all a-flutter. Many of the film’s scenes are edited to the rhythm of the film’s – also, I’m not sorry to say brilliant – soundtrack ranging from minimal synth over rock hovering between acid and drone to garage styles, often providing the extra push any given scene needs to really jump out at the audience.

There’s very little about the film I disliked – the script probably could have lost one or two scenes of random characters getting killed off, and the acting is a bit amateurish though never in the bored and boring way of people embarrassed by what they do – and I could go on for another 400 words or so just heaping gushing adjectives on the film, like trippy and psychotronic, but really, this sort of thing, always hovering between dream-like, peculiar and energetic as it is, is something much more fruitfully experienced than talked about, and once experienced, to be loved with great enthusiasm.

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