Director Tory Jones is an independent filmmaker of primarily horror films and if I’ve learned anything about him by watching this… it’s that he favors the right side of an image. A follow-up, with much of the same cast, to 2017’s “The Wicked One,” this movie shows a lot of passion for horror but carries all the tell-tale signs of a lack of time and budget. I’ll try to talk about what works, especially given that this is produced by Jones’ own production company, Jonestown Films (as well as Studio 605). There is a passion in some performances, scenes, effects work, and story ideas… but there’s so much more that makes this hard to watch.
Just to state this up front and get it out of the way, Dwayne D. Depp plays the only black character in the film, is dressed in a shirt and with a matching pipe to hint “rasta,” is never in the same shot as other actors and with enough of a change in audio quality to tell you he was alone when filming all of his scenes, and dies alone, masturbating in a graveyard, fully exposed. I thought for a moment that the nudity would result in some gross-out payoff later but… no… it’s as confusing and racist as it sounds.
Bizarre decisions stand out despite limits to the production. There doesn’t seem to be any intentional thought to lighting some scenes, then a careful mix of ambient fog and flickering lights in an abandoned warehouse that plays tense and with a sense of vision. There are non-traditional decisions for nudity (wide shot of a man masturbating over a grave is an example) yet careful editing and effective gor-based special effects. A tense moment of doubt and conflict between a husband and wife is delivered in one shot with an LG television centered in the background. There’s intricate make-up work in sets that seem like they took less than a minute to stage. The creative team, at some points, seems to have been actively avoiding close-ups that weren’t of the masked killers… and even then…
The slasher team consists of a brooding and thoughtful Richard Leo Hunt, Roni Jonah as a half-baked cross between the Sawyer family and Harley Quinn that could have watched only Sarah Jessica Parker in “Hocus Pocus” for preparation, and Jason Crowe giving his all to seem believably deranged. Brandi Botkin, as the older daughter, seems talented and empathetic, but wasn’t given much to do other than attempt to have sex with her boyfriend or… be raped by Crowe. I sincerely hope the behind the scenes was warm and friendly, because it would be nice to just appreciate how effectively creepy and sickening the harder-to-watch scenes can be. The leads seem to be Dale Miller, Katie Stewart, and James Tackett as the parents and police officer hunting the titular “Wicked Ones.” I can tell they cared, and I want to root for them, but I didn’t believe a second of their performances to the point that it felt bad to watch them do something they clearly cared about and not have the amount of takes and direction that might have pushed this into something that could give them more pride.
They should all have pride, though, assuming it was a team that cared about one another. They seemed to have fun, the splatters are plenty, and apart from the set decorations effort and care is in every scene. Making a movie that feels remotely as “produced” as this one is an insane task, and they finished it. How’s your movie coming along? The sad part is it takes itself too seriously to laugh at, has too many errors to be taken seriously, then TRIES to make you laugh, and ultimately just makes you feel like you had to watch rape and murder. I really hope Jonestown Films takes their time with their next film(s) to shoot multiple angles, record and loop audio, and polish the things that keep a viewer from feeling the intended effects of a movie, because with more of that work, this could have been something that hit harder.