Anthony Spadaccini is one of those directors that you are either going to love and embrace his daring vision of horror, or be ready to blast it. Anthony’s vision is somewhat of an art house mixed with little touches of experimentation that one can assume he is trying to get the most out of his films just by the simple approach of letting us feel like we are looking thru the keyhole of someone’s life and we have no idea how it is going to turn out, but we hope for the worst just to see how twisted it will get. My first taste of this man came with Head Case, that I was really impressed with for the most part with the way he tells a story and gives me so many things to think about once the film was over. Now come to find out that was part of a trilogy. And, I got to witness the other two films. The other two films were The Ritual and Post-Mortem being the finale? Maybe…..
If you are not familiar with the story of Wayne and his wife Andrea Montgomery, I would recommend watching Head Case first to get a feel of this story and most importantly to see if this is a trilogy that you can get behind. Well, Head Case was a documentary like film that revolved around the home videos of the Montgomery family and the crimes of these serial killers. The Ritual is the follow up and Wayne Montgomery is somewhat intrigued by his teenage hustler named Jared and makes him his heir apparent to serial killing. This film is about the relationship that Wayne takes on to teach someone the tricks of the trade.
This film is even more odd than Head Case, in the fact that parts of this film you can take as a spoken word piece with a backdrop with black and white imagery that really captures the dark of the devil’s soul, because you know Jared is dealing with this demon and you watch how normalcy can turn to insanity in seconds. What makes this film really stand out to me are just how experimental Anthony is ready to take horror and his characters. This felt more like watching a biography then a film, and that works for this material. It makes you create horror in your mind, and get a deeper meaning than someone who has to draw everything out for you. Anthony respects the material and really makes even a simple sentence mean more than words and more like warnings.
I am a sucker for visual geniuses in film using techniques that have existed since the early age of films and making them feel modern, and that is what Anthony has created with The Ritual. This father figure and son figure at times almost comes across as a father and son animal teaching and learning how to hunt, and it has that look that is so depressing and feels like fate that you know these two were doomed for each other and that this life was waiting for Jared. The Ritual even though it is billed as a sequel, it feels more like a chapter into a long novel. This story is told directly to the camera and is not a traditional film in any means and the film really tries to become a little traditional when Jared gets more at ease with what he is doing and tries to go against the rules that Wayne set up. I also found that there is a serial killer support group. I will not say this was a great sequel, I will say this is a very must watch sequel to a film that I am really intrigued to see how this story can continue into Post-Mortem, and if it loses anything like most third chapters or films in a trilogy.
Post Mortem is the last chapter as of right now, and I am torn. I am scared that Anthony is starting to pigeonhole himself with this style of film making that he may not try to break any new ground. While, I really loved the first two films and the third film is not that bad, I just felt it sort of dragged the story out further than it needed to be. Horror films are a very heavily criticized genre of films that for some are an acquired taste. What scares you, may not work for me and vice-versa. Horror also has the most passionate fans, that do want change but I think films like what Anthony are putting out while great on the surface in some doses, I am not sure if people would be down for film after film in this same genre and feel.
This documentary type of film making while it feels realistic and comes across as looking very personal, at times does get a tad bit too much. I mean, how many of you are sick of seeing horror films with numbers at the end? The positive is this time the film does not focus on the Montgomery’s but it takes another character and throws them into the forefront. This time it is John Craven who sounds like a character from a Crow film, and John is a very normal on the outside insane on the inside type of person. Craven is one of those neighbors that would wave to you while passing you by on the way to stab to death your friend or family member. He has this sick mentality that he enjoys the pain and suffering he causes. He also seems like an equal opportunity employer by wanting to take the troubled young souls he encounters and turn them into the same monster he is. Well along comes this wayward soul named Seth who is from a bad family environment and is just a self-destructive kid who seems to have no purpose in life. Like The Ritual, Craven tries to get Seth to become this killing monster and tries to rationalize it for Seth, but soon Seth gets to second guessing this and develops a conscience and does not want to do this anymore.
To me, I would have liked this film more if I would have seen a little later instead of right after Ritual. It got to feeling too similar and really like that Anthony really needs to really throw us a monkey wrench and go outside this realm and give us something different. If you are a fan of Head Case you should see The Ritual, but Mortem while it is not a bad film, it just does not really feel like a trilogy ending, it feels like an ongoing chapter of a story that feels so much like a creativity circle that the ideas are all being repeated again and again along with the story-lines just giving us different characters but almost the same situations. That is my only negative about experimentation in film, is that sometime the director does not want to break that mold and stick in it.
The Ritual- 8 out of 10
Post-Mortem 5 out of 10