------Review by contributing writer Scott Baker------
Directed by Bart Mastronardi
Courtesy of R Squared Films
I did with this movie what I did with the book Hayes had me review last week: I didn’t read anything about it before I sat down to watch it. Why? Well, two reasons, really: first, because having no preconceptions about a movie keeps you from having any misconceptions about it…and second, because the screener did not have a cover or any artwork/descriptions with it.
The plot of VINDICATION, per imdb.com, is this:
“A morality tale about a young man, Nicholas Bertram, whose attempt at suicide fails causing his guilt to manifest into reality.”
The tagline for this movie pretty much sums the whole thing up: “Guilt shows no mercy.” This phrase is repeated numerous times throughout the film, usually by a horrific entity that is never named but who is more than likely the personification of Nichols’s guilt. In a sense, this movie shows no mercy, either. It is a gritty, dark film about how guilt can overwhelm and eventually consume you.
I have to start my commentary by stating VINDICATION is a hard movie to get in to initially. This is basically due in part to the first hour being dedicated to Nicholas fighting depression, attempting suicide, and then dealing with the resulting psychological aftermath. Not that this wasn’t entertaining (if that’s the right word) to watch, but the subject matter is so dark and haunting that it almost drags you down into the despair. I like to feel immersed in a movie and also to have a reason to care for a character…but this is almost too much.
Luckily, the rest of the movie grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. At (literally) about the hour-in point, Nicholas snaps and goes on a massive killing spree. The guilt, it seems, overtakes his mind and warps his sense of right and wrong. He begins to believe that he has a duty to free people from their guilt.
I have to say: for being a low budget picture, the special effects in this movie are excellent. The body scars and wounds look real and the blood sprays are intense and effective. There’s even a one-on-one fight towards the end between Nicholas and his step-brother that is very believable as well.
My favorite scene is when Nicholas strolls into a night club and slaughters everyone on the dance floor. With the deep bass pumping and the strobes flashing, the resulting scene is phenomenal, giving it a surreal but intensely realistic feel. My runner-up favorite would be the scene where Nicholas chokes his step-brother to death with barbed-wire.
But for all the film’s positives, there is one glaring negative that stands out for me: there are several bizarre, Alice-in-Wonderland-type scenes that are never explained. For example, Nicholas visits the apartment of an eccentric fat woman who reads his future. In the apartment, a wannabe photographer is taking pictures of a red-painted body-builder wearing angel wings. The body-builder is crying out in anguish as he raises his hands to the heavens. From a symbolic standpoint, I would take this is Lucifer wallowing in anguish at being banished from Heaven. But why is the scene in the film? It doesn’t make sense. I can’t find a single reason for it to be here, other than to maybe add a little Twin Peaks sort of innuendo.
But aside from that and a couple of smaller things (a few miscues on acting and some sound problems--in one section of the DVD, the vocals and sound effects don’t sync up with the film), this movie is a win for me. This isn’t your typical slasher film, but more of a human-drama study of one man’s slide into madness…that just so happens to end in a massive bloodbath. Just keep in mind, though: it IS a low-budget film, so don’t expect multi-million-dollar quality. But even so, I think you’ll definitely be entertained in the end.
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