Directed by: #TomBotchii
Written by: #TomBotchii
Tom Botchii’s dark and gritty take on rural southwestern living details the day-to-day routine of the dysfunctional Brays family. And while It’s not unusual to find dysfunctional families, for Adam (Gavin White), things are a little more consequential than they are for most.
Adam’s father – comic book-obsessed serial killer, Artik (Jerry G. Angelo) – spends his days reading, and writing comic books. But at night, Artik – along with Adam – drives out onto the isolated rural roads of New Mexico to find “guests”, whom he summarily dispatches in front of his young son. Artik’s murderous streak seems to stem from comic book-inflected delusions of righteousness. From the belief that he’s cleansing the world of impurity (‘Release the purity within’). An illusion his equally murderous wife (Lauren Ashley Carter) is all too happy for him to indulge. Artik wants Adam to carry on his work when he’s older. That is until, one night, Adam meets and befriends Holton (Chase Williamson), a mysterious man from town who starts to suspect that all is not well at home.
Artik is a film I expected would take an earnest look at small-town life, of the tensions in Artik and Adam’s father-son relationship. And it kind of does. The problem here is, except for Adam, none of the characters is given much in the way of character history or development. There’s no reasoning for why these people are this way. The problem is this is important for an audience because that’s how we empathise with the character.
Slight disappointment aside, performances across the board are excellent. Jerry G. Angelo is impressive and scary, physically imposing, and strikes an intimidating presence—even if his delivery can be a little flat in places. Gavin White’s performance as Adam brings much-needed depth to the character, and the conflict Adam feels is palpable. There’s also a reliable performance from both Lauren Ashley Carter and Chase Williamson. Unfortunately, both characters are underdeveloped and underutilised throughout much of the movie.
However, the problems with character development are pretty much where my issues with the film ends. Artik is a beautiful looking film that understands and fully utilises its setting. Cinematographer #MartinMoody can visually capture the isolation and detachment of rural life. His decision to contrast the vast darkness of the landscape with small paintbrush strokes of very bright colour is gorgeous to behold and tantamount to genius. There’s also graininess to the film that, depending on who you are, will either annoy or delight you. I couldn’t decide if this was an artistic choice or because of lower quality equipment, although my money is on the former. Honestly, I really liked it. I felt it added to the gritty nature of the story, which is also helped by the film’s excellent practical effects. This gifts the movie the appearance of a really messed up home video.
Artik’s strong point should have been its characters; unfortunately, most are underdeveloped and not interesting enough to hold up on their own. However, the story, themes, sound and visual design, oppressive atmosphere, and the profoundly unnerving and affecting performances still make this an incredibly enjoyable movie.