Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Douglas Rath
Cast: Zak Hudson, Anthony Bravo, Janelle Odair, Michelle Campbell
I spent last Sunday attempting to catch up on some of the screeners I’ve got lying around at home and waiting for me in the inbox. Number one on my, to watch list was the indie film about a film, Shock Value. Douglas Rath directs from a script penned by Anthony Bravo, and the talent of these two combined makes for an excellent little flick that’s humorous, creepy and, when all is said and done, just plain bat shit crazy, in the most complimentary sense possible of course. Bravo’s script is scary sharp, the laughs trickling down a cynical pipeline before dripping right in our jaded faces. It’s dark, and we feel dark watching it. The premise isn’t what I’d consider unrivaled in regards to originality, but the care with which Bravo has pieced every last scene together is something to be admired. And Douglas Rath does that script true justice. This is a man who knows how to shoot a film. He knows how to control the cues, what angles to utilize, when to go low light, when to go high – hell, he’s even a monster in the editing room. He’s on it, and that refinement (which caught me off guard, I admit) is deeply appreciated and sincerely respected. As it turns out, Shock Value isn’t the risky celluloid journey it may appear to be at first glance.
Viewers follow down on his luck and technically limited filmmaker Miles Fowler as he pushes to get his new movie made. This movie, unlike the other projects he’s been involved with, could be the golden ticket that sparks a respectable career. Why? Because this production is different than the productions fans see on a regular basis. This production features the work of an actual serial killer… playing a serial killer. What better way to nail authenticity, right? And realistically, what could possibly go wrong? That was rhetorical. Don’t answer it. Rather, watch Shock Value, a taut and terrifying examination of the human mind and how fragile it is. If it’s answers you want, you’ll get some jarring ones in Shock Value.
Kudos go out to a spirited cast for showing up and dedicating everything they’ve got to a small but promising production. I can’t imagine a scenario in which Nick, the serial killer of the story, is better cast. Bravo was born to play this role. He has it absolutely mastered. Every tick. Every movement and line. It’s creepy… seriously creepy. And that’s one of the driving forces behind the picture’s success. Malcolm McDowell is pitch perfect as the frighteningly unstable Edmund Dean Huntley. Michelle Campbell is loveable enough to take home and introduce to the parents. They’re great, and they’re instrumental here. The truth is, this film is so convincing I found myself wondering why I haven’t seen a few of these performers in major motion pictures. They’re prepared – right now – to make a massive leap in the industry, if they chose to, and are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity. Anthony Bravo can cut it. Michelle Campbell can cut it. Zak Hudson can cut it. That’s crazy. This is a little team of low key masters in a novice sector in cinema’s expanses. They must escape, for the benefit of fans and their financial longevity and prosperity. They deserve it, just as this movie deserves heavy praise.
Be prepared for a crisp picture that commands laughs and delivers goose bumps. Shock Value is more than a good b-movie, it’s a wildly inspired feature that just might change the course of director Douglas Rath’s career. It could be the introduction to a future star in Anthony Bravo. It just might pick up enough steam to earn itself a cult classic status. It’s that good. It really is. It’s also yet another addition to my Best of 2014 list, which you’ll see posted in December. Don’t do yourself an injustice and snooze on this one, it’s a masterful trip into respectfully retro filmmaking, and it’s as disconcerting as they come.