Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Film Review: Necromentia (2009) at Loft Cinema, Tucson

FREE Screening / Local Feature Premiere
Where: The Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. Tucson , AZ 85716
When: Tuesday, September 7th at 7:00 p.m.

"Join us for a free screening of acclaimed filmmaker Pearry Teo's stylish new shot-in-Tucson horror film NECROMENTIA, which premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and was screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival! Pearry will discuss the challenges and possibilities of filming in Tucson, and will also present a pair of locally made short films and trailers for upcoming local productions before the feature. Pearry will introduce the film and join members of the NECROMENTIA cast and crew for a post-film Q&A session." - from the promotional e-invitation sent out by The Loft Cinema

"Hell Await the Foolish"

RUN TIME: 82 Min.
DIRECTOR: Teo Pearry
CAST: Layton Mathews, Chad Grimes, Santiago Craig, Zeileann Rivera,  Cole Braxton

SUMMARY: This dark, twisted tale of erotic tortures and shocking torment dares to open the gates of hell for three men desperate to transcend the boundaries of death. One harbors a lingering passion for his dead girlfriend, another is a professional sadist determined to save his troubled brother, and the third hungers for the most brutal kind of revenge. But to open the portals of hell, an ancient map of the occult must be carefully carved into one man's flesh. From the acclaimed director of GENE GENERATION, NECROMENTIA is a disturbing nightmare that will haunt your dreams long after it's over.

THE FILM/SCREENING EXPERIENCE: I love free movie screenings especially when afforded the rare opportunity to see one filmed in Tucson, Arizona - the place I've called home for 16 years. I'd not heard of the film or the director prior to an email from The Loft Cinema the day before, so kudos to them for getting the word out. The event was a well attended, though not too crowded. I love the Loft Cinema, it is a true Tucson institution of arthouse and indie cinema. I have fond memories of seeing WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (1995) , CEMETERY MAN (1994), and THE CITY OF THE LOST CHILDREN (1995) when I first arrived in Tucson, as well as seeing more recent screenings of The Loft's CULT CLASSIC series, including DR. STRANGELOVE (1964), BRAZIL (1985), CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST (1980) and upcoming this week, a brand-new 35mm print of the Sam Raimi classic EVIL DEAD (1981). The main auditorium is cavernous, the seats are comfy and the beer on tap is awesome, this months beer is Green Lakes Organic Ale, tasty stuff. Also, the film was an HD Digital presentation on the brand new Loft Cinema screen replaced just last week and it looks great. Longtime patrons may miss the old screen's unique character, including a nice tear dead center at the bottom of the screen, but we'll make due with perfection. 

Shortly before the start of the film the L.A.based director Pearry Teo came onstage and spoke briefly about his fond recollections of working with the Tucson film crew and then executive producer John Eslinger, who makes a brief cameo in the film, came onstage. Mr. Eslinger was quite a character, in his late-60's from the look of him, decked out in a suit with cowboy boots, thick full mustache and a stetson hat - a real cowboy movie producer type. He recalled working with Teo and the actors, relating what odd but gifted characters they were, and even pointing out that the founder of Old Tucson Studios, Robert Shelton, was in attendance. Old Tucson Studios is where over 300 western-themed movie and television projects have been film, including THE THREE AMIGOS, NIGHT OF THE LEPUS, THE OUTLAW JOSIE WALES and Sam Raimi's THE QUICK AND THE DEAD. After Eslinger the two leads in the film Santiago Craig (Hagen) and Chad Gromes (Travis) came onstage and briefly related how much they enjoyed making the film and appreciated everyone coming out to see the Tucson premiere.

Elizabeth - worth going to Hell for?
 The films begins as Hagen (Santiago Craig) is obsessing over his deceased lover Elizabeth's (Zelieanna Rivera) body, caressing her skin and maintenancing her decomposing body. He's a creepy guy, mop of blond hair, spectacles with a shattered lens, groaning on about her returning to him like she promised. Later while at work sweeping up a barbershop he's approached by Travis (Chad Gromes), he knows about his dead girlfriend ...and the necrophilia. Oh yeah, he knows, he's seen it, and he can help Hagen bring Elizabeth back from the dead through necromancy. Travis is a sadist, a professional skin carver and heroin junkie, he's trying to kick the habit using Ketamine, trying to clean-up his act to better care for his autistic younger brother, Thomas (Zach Cumer). While on a Ketamine-fueled  mind trip Travis meets Morbius (Layton Mathews), a demon with a deal. Meanwhile, Thomas is at home seeing vision of Mr. Skinny (Nathan Ginn), a fat man in a pig's head wrapped in barbed wire with a surgical tubing full of blood coming out of his snout. Truly bizarre, a great surreal visual made more eerie by the fact that he has a child's voice and serenades Thomas with a pro-suicide song, encouraging the boy to take his own life. So, there are the main elements, it's a interesting concept, and the story in a labyrinthine anthology design, the strings come together into a surreal knot of nightmarish imagery and terrifying visions.

It's a low budget affair, but Teo's eye for visual flair and style is nuanced and pleasing. Some of the editing was a bit much, but not too distracting. The special effects are pretty great for a low budget film, particularly scenes involving a Ouija board being carved into someones flesh, and the demon Morbius is also well done, a black-eyed marble skinned figure. The creature design of a hulking hellbound demon looks like an amalgam of HELLRAISER's Pinhead, RESIDENT EVIL zombie and the ALIEN creature. The overall feel of the film is that of a Clive Barker homage, particularly Barker's HELLRAISER. Budget limitations do show through at times, such as the fact that Hell is depicted as a dingy maintenance tunnel lined with steam pipes and electrical conduit, I'd chalk that up to budget constraints.

Mr. Skinnny
DVD: NECROMENTIA is due to be released on Tuesday Sept. 14 2010 from Image Entertainment. The film will be presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 surround sound. Special features will include a director's commentary, Q&A, and a trailer.

VERDICT: I've not seen Pearry Teo's previous film THE GENE GENERATION but this film interested me enough that I'll be visiting his filmography again. It's not perfect, but it is an interesting Faustian tale of betrayal and revenge. While some of the imagery is a bit cliche the strong storyline kept me rapt. RATING *** (3 out of 5 stars)

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