Tuesday, October 19, 2010

DVD Review: Sella Turcica (2010)

"For Brad The War is Over... For His Family It's Just Begun"

RATED: Unrated
DIRECTOR: Fred Vogel
CAST: Damien Maruscak (Sgt. Bradkey), Camille Keaton (Karmen), Jade Risser, Sean P. McCarthy (Bruce), Allie Nickel, Sarah Thornton

PLOT SYNOPSIS: Sgt. Bradley Robak (Damien Maruscak) returns home from active duty after a mysterious accident leaves him paralyzed and wheelchair bound. Awaiting his return, his mother, Karmen (Camille Keaton) and younger sister, Ashley(Jade Risser) remain unaware of the details of the accident and severity of Brad's condition. Once he arrives, though he looks sickly, his family members are so pleased to see him alive that they don't bring attention to his ill appearance. Over the next twenty-six hours Brad's condition terribly worsens, barreling down to a gruesome conclusion that will change the family forever.

FILM: Karmen (Camille Keaton, I Spit On Your Grave) and her family are anxiously awaiting the return of her son Bradley (Damien Marusack, Murder Collection v.1) who is returning home after serving his country in the Gulf War. Bradley's been paralyzed from the waist down following a mysterious accident and is now wheelchair bound. Brad arrives and it's apparent right away that he just isn't "right", something is off about the young man. It could be post-traumatic stress or any number of battle fatigue ailments, but it's seems to be more than that. The wheelchair bound Sgt. is sickly-ill, his skin is discolored and he's mentally frail.  Mom and sister Ashley (Jade Risser, Murder, Set,Pieces) are happy to have him back but it's a difficult and awkward situation. Everyone wants to know what happened and he tells them he just can't recall any details. It's his brother Bruce (Sean P. McCarthy) whom he finally confides in regarding the strange and mysterious circumstances of the incident. But even this explanation omits any true revelation and only serves to further shroud the incident in intrigue. The scenes between Bradley and his brother are handled quite well. You can feel the strain between them as they try to reconnect and relate to each other but it does not come easy. Bradley is suffering terribly, though her tries his best to hide this from his family. He has an excruciating pain in his head and he is leaking a mysterious black liquid from his ears which he tries to conceal by stuffing his ears with cotton balls. Loud piercing sounds agitate him but despite the pain and irritability Brad does his best to put on a brave face for his family not wanting them to worry them. He seems to be in a bit of denial in regards to the severity of his illness.  He sequesters himself in his room for the most part. No one seems willing to break the facade of normalcy to address his condition.

The acting in the film is very good and the characters are well defined and developed. I've not seen Camille Keaton in a film  since the rape-revenge exploitation flick I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and it was great to see her stretching her acting chops as the mother. The supporting roles from Jade Risser and Sean P. McCarthy as Brad's siblings are also good but it is Damien Maruscak's stand-out lead performance as Sgt. Bradley Robak that steals the show here. His performance is tense and uneasy and you can feel his suffering as his illness progresses. It's a very physical performance, one I'll be talking about for a while. It makes the film in my opinion.

Eventually things spiral out of control and the film reaches it's explosive climax. I don't want to spoil it but I will say it is a bloody and fucked-up finale. The violence is shocking and the gore is fantastic. Not even the family dog Fulci is safe! Nice nod to Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci there by the way. I think the film may feel a tad slow as the tension builds from an uneasy homecoming to the aforementioned gore-filled finale but it is deliberately paced by design and with purpose.

DVD: Sella Turcica is presented in anamorphic wide screen with good image quality, it appears soft in a few places but otherwise no complaints. The DVD is pretty well-stocked in the special features department. An informative commentary from the director and star, a couple of featurettes chronicling co-star Sean P. McCarthy's tattooing of cast & crew during filming plus an 8 minute behind the scenes look at the special effects work that went into the death of Fulci. We also get deleted scenes and outtakes, and two photo montages from the set and a trailer gallery.
  • Commentary with director Fred Vogel and Damien Maruscak (1:45:00)
  • Deleted Scenes (1:41)
  • Behind the Scenes Photos (5:10)
  • Making of Fulci's Death (7:57)
  • Outtakes (2:01 min)
  • On Set Photos (3:34)
  • Tattoos On Set (1:32)
  • Trailers
    • Sella Turcica (2:14)
    • Murder Collection V.2 (2:47)
    • Latex Autopsy (1:37)
    • August Underground Collection (1:06)
VERDICT:  This is my first time viewing a TOETAG INC production. I've heard a lot of chatter about 'em, not always good, usually indicating the extreme nature of the films as overly shocking and violent. I must say I was pleasantly surprised by Sella Turcica. It's a tense and well-acted dramatic story about a family trying so desperately to hold onto the appearance of normalcy for the sake of a family member that they turn a blind eye to the white elephant in the room until it blows great bloody chunks in their faces. I can't wait to explore more Toetag Inc and Fred Vogel productions. Good stuff.
**** (4 out of 5 stars)