In 2011, two brothers documented their murder spree in North Carolina, this is the actual assembled footage is the premise of director and writer Jack Thomas Smith’s newest film, that some deem as a found footage film, others as a horror film, though I believe it is a moralistic psychological dramatic movie. Smith’s entire film starts and ends with sparks, but a simple phone call from brothers, John and Kenny Stiles’ mother, sets off an avalanche of tragic circumstances, only found in a similar movie from Jason Stoddard called The Affliction. The twists and turns in story never show an absurd level, or used to bolster the movie’s authentic tone, keeping a realistic tempo that continues to add to an already terrifying story with an underlying intense and scary current weaving in the background. An intimate nature with the brothers and their family dynamic allows for true interaction with these two men and exposing the access to their psyches and excelling their conquest of a complex murder spree with many precision movements.
“Working on ‘Infliction’ left me troubled and haunted,” Jack Thomas Smith, had been quoted, and did again on the July 11, 2014 podcast, of Baron’s Crypt, asking oneself many spiritual and moral questions that often sit on the sidelines of a horror film and out of the limelight for discussion, rather substituting entertainment as a more luxurious time filler. Jack’s film seems to borrow from both Jesuit Teachings and Alfred Hitchcock’s mindset for suspense storytelling, and topping it off with serious Christian hints relating to The Ten Commandments and society’s hindsight to judge everything through dirty glasses mentality. Jack used the infamous figure, Charles Manson and his actions to keep a Chinese Wall in place surrounding his movie, thereby hiding the plot, solution and dilemmas, similar to not allowing anyone into a theater after the film starts. Therefore, as with the example of Charles, does his terrible childhood, prostituting mother, abuse, and leading to his animalistic cravings for fame eventually leading to his conviction of orchestrating the Helter Skelter murders, or is this something more sinister in the generalization of society itself. However, in this film, a deeper element involves the Christian moralistic upbringing in our society, of obeying and honoring one’s parents, the fifth commandment and that if hardship occurs endure the suffering for Jesus will save oneself by intervention.
A few of the standout scenes, involve the fear in Judge Stevens (Kimball Ewonus) as the character, has immense fear, gagged, eyes wide with a panic stricken face, heavy breathing, and tight control raging moment captured on film. Excellent camerawork with a point of view from the killer’s standpoint, and ending with a staging of the crime, complete with a priest’s robe, hinting to the Judge’s honoring of the bible in court – the swearing in of the parties, and the honor of his lofty position as if on a throne like the Lord. The impact of the scene reeks of deep complexities occurring in the mindset of tortured killers. John and Kenny Stiles (Jason Mac and Elliott Armstong) later reunited with their sister Andrea (Ana Shaw) and discover more about their family, and newly discover realizations of being one’s uncles, a finding balance in the family recreational room with their parents Patti and Joe (Catherine Trail and Don Henderson Baker), a wholesome reunion. Between some, nightmarish from the brothers very good effects lend themselves to the screen, adding a measured amount of gore and lots of blood with practically all of the kills. Meanwhile, many horror fans might bow out that this is not new material, though achieves both darkness in characters and harshness in society, with Jack’s masterful execution it does achieve the ability to successfully separate itself from other brutality films. In fact, one finds themselves pulled into the dynamics on the screen, and into the world of video cameras’ surveillance, that brings this controversial creation dripping into the minds of the audience for long-term effects.
An eventful ride for all to enjoy, with this type of review I, as a horror movie reviewer, I restrained and avoided as much as possible not to divulge the spoilers and secrets, needless to say the video taping of the crimes comes full circle and acts as a therapeutic psychological experimentation for everyone to understand their conditioning and motivation. In the end, this film exceeds the normal found-footage sub-genre and encouraging one not only to view this film but also examine their own life, spirituality, and finally the ghosts and monsters looming in the our minds, extremely carefully expose them to the light.
This review was originally published in August 2014 on the now defunct Rogue Cinema website and accumulated a view count at the time of 1,317.
IMDb Rating: 5.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10