Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Son of Terror' requires your patience

Son of Terror (2011)
Starring: Ben Andrews, Alan Sutherland, Marcel Davis, and Meredith Binder
Director: Antony De Gennaro
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A reclusive artist (Andrews) discovers he has a psychic link to a serial killer (Sutherland) who is murderng vagrants around Seattle's Pioneer Square.

"Son of Terror" is one of those movies I wish I liked more. It was made by filmmakers in my home state of Washington, and it features a great deal of creativity in every technical aspect of its production. The use of sound is particularly ingenious, with the music soundtrack and ambient sound mixing and fading in and out in ways often so subtle that you won't realize why the scene your watching is as hair-raisingly creepy as it is. An impressive level of artistry and skill is on display in this movie, especially considering that it's the product of a first-time director who wore many hats and worked with a very tight budget.

Unfortunately, De Gennaro spends too much time putting his artistry on display and the end result is a film that you have to be very patient with. Not only does the story move slowly, but De Gennaro doesn't set up the somewhat unusual method he uses to tell it--switching back and forth between the main character (played by Ben Andrews), and the film's monstrous killer (played by Alan Sutherland), as well as other sequences that initially seem unconnected to anything else, and using television screens to denote the switching--and it doesn't become clear what he is doing until about ten minutes in. Compound the mild frustration and disorientation with the way nearly every scene seems to unfold at a leisurely pace and in a self-indulgent fashion that seems more concerned with making sure viewers notice the creative cinematography and (eventually catch onto) the very effective sound design that proper timing of the story, it's a film that even the most fair-minded viewer will be tempted to turn off before you reach the halfway point.

When it finally becomes clear what is going on in the film, patient viewers will be amply rewarded as it just keeps getting creepier and creepier. But you'll have to be very patient.

"Son of Terror" premiered at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival a couple of years ago, and it debuts in wide distribution on DVD and VOD on March 8, 2011. Although flawed, it's worth checking out for lovers of off-beat, psychological terror flicks, and I think Antony De Gennaro is destined for great things if he sticks with filmmaking. (I had a very hard time choosing between a Four or Five Rating for this film, but I ultimately went with the lower rating, because of the numerous pacing issues. But I still think it's worth a look.)