This is our first review from Richard Martin. Richard has written for several publications in the past and we are happy to have him hopefully joining the team. You can find him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RickReadsHorror
A mysterious virus, plague, pharmaceutical drug conspiracy erupts over a city causing a pandemic. In the midst of the chaos, a mentally deranged maniac seeks to fulfill continuous addiction and vengeful murder, despite the imminent demise of society happening around him. The story leads to a family being destroyed leaving an abandoned little girl to save her baby sister.
Tagline: Even a pandemic can’t kill an addiction
Starring: Moe Isaac, Nathan Faudree, Cassandra Hayes, Lillian Colvin, Natalie Colvin and Shain Hence | Genre: Horror | Runtime: 1 hr 32 minutes | Source: Publicist – October Coast | Unstarred Review
Joshua Reele’s new movie, Necropath, started life as a 2014 short of the same name and has now been expanded into a full-length feature consisting of three interlinked shorts by the same director, telling the story of a murderous junkie surviving a zombie apocalypse.
If you’re reading this and thinking “Great! A zombie movie. I love those” I’ll stop you there. This isn’t your traditional Romero zombie-fest. Necropath is very experimental, almost art-house in execution, downbeat and nihilistic, slow-burning and deeply unconventional.
The story, such as it is, opens with a young couple ‘enjoying each other’s company’ in a parked car in a decidedly rundown looking neighbourhood. There is no happy ending for them, as a feral looking man (Skag, played by Moe Isaac) stalks out of the shadows, viciously cutting the man’s throat before robbing them both and fleeing the scene. Presumably using the stolen money to buy drugs, we then cut to a murky, broken down bathroom, with an equally dirty Skag slumped on the floor, injecting and hallucinating before running back out into the night to find his next fix. So begins Necropath! Not exactly cheerful and upbeat stuff.
The viewer is then presented with three tales of Skag as he navigates a zombie outbreak. Seemingly indifferent to the chaos around him, his only interest is murdering and stealing to feed his habit, now without impunity, targeting first a young mother and her son, then a family fleeing the chaos and finally a young girl who has lost her family. The zombies are little more than a plot device, serving only to allow Skag free reign and to put more victims in his path.
It was interesting to see the three shorts collected here in Necropath and see the progression of Reele as a director. The first, and earliest of the three is by far the most unusual and least traditional in a Hollywood sense, with little to nothing in the way of plot, focusing instead on visuals and sound to create an experience rather than a story. The following shorts are a little more developed and narrative based and easier to follow, if somewhat less thought-provoking. As a collection, it all fit together seamlessly and while there are three distinct segments, it all works very well as a cohesive whole.
In terms of direction, Necropath is very effective, with quick, jarring cuts, juddering camera and purposefully out of focus shots, it really delivers an uncomfortable and hard to stomach viewing experience. While it makes the film difficult to watch at times, it does what it sets out to do, and puts the viewer on edge. The films score is similarly uncomfortable, largely made up of discordant and conflicting noises, high pitched screams, low rumbling bass, air-raid sirens and electronic buzzing. It is weird, harsh and unpleasant, but then this is a weird, harsh and unpleasant film.
There is oddly little dialogue throughout, which is probably for the best as what little there is comes across as fairly cliché and doesn’t feel particularly authentic. It also allows for more focus on the films’ strengths (cinematography, sound design) so, while it was noticeable at first, I soon grew accustomed and even appreciated it.
For such an obviously micro-budgeted film, the acting throughout is surprisingly decent, as long as your expectations are tempered accordingly. Moe Isaac as Skag is nothing if not committed. It’s a brave performance, uncompromising and very effective at showing the ravages of addiction. He certainly looks the part and is able to convey a lot with body language alone. Cassandra Hayes as Necropath’s twisted answer to a final girl and Nathan Faudree as her reprehensible father are also good value for money.
What ultimately lets the film down is its ambition outstripping its means. A worldwide zombie apocalypse is a tough sell when the budget is next to zero, and while Reele gets creative and has some suitably grim and grimy locations, things like the action set pieces betray a lack of money behind them and come across as wooden and unconvincing. The script itself is passable, if not entirely original and often overly reliant on horror cliches. They are minor issues that, with a bigger budget, would be easily addressed. The talent behind the camera certainly seem up to the task.
Necropath is a tough film to watch. It’s a barrage of the senses, trying and succeeding in making you uncomfortable and on edge from the very first frame. To say I ‘enjoyed’ it would be a lie. It’s not the kind of film that’s meant to be enjoyed. ‘Experienced’, or ‘endured’ feel more apt, given how unrelentingly nasty the whole affair is. While the lack of budget and a polished script hinder it somewhat, it certainly marks out Joshua Reele as a horror talent to watch.
2.5 out of 5
Lilyn G is the founder of Sci-Fi & Scary, and leader of the Coolthulhu Crew. She does book and film reviews for both genres the site focuses on. Her tastes run towards creature features, hard science fiction, and lots and lots of action. She also has a soft spot for middle-grade fiction that rears its head frequently.
Though no longer involved with Ladies of Horror Fiction due to other responsibilities and a too-full plate, she was one of the original 4 co-founders.
Feel free to chat her up on Twitter as long as you aren’t hitting her up to review your book.
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