“Full-on Angle Grinding Action”: Dr. Lauren & Darren review “Artik” (2019)

Artik (Jerry G. Angelo) reacts to our review…

Dr. Lauren McIntyre (above) is a horror obsessive, tattoo connoisseur, natural Goth and cat wrangler. She is spending a lot of the coronapocalypse explaining what the squares on her wall are to the people she’s FaceTiming. Say hi to her on Twitter: @noddinggoth

Darren Gaskell (above) is a horror obsessive and “enthusiastic” karaoke performer. He is spending a lot of the coronapocalypse eating cake and playing old ZX Spectrum games. Say hi to him on Twitter: @darren_gaskell

ARTIK (2019)

Starring: Chase Williamson, Jerry G. Angelo, Lauren Ashley Carter

Writer: Tom Botchii

Director: Tom Botchii

Darren: So, we’re here to discuss Artik, which is an indie, low-budget horror about a comic book-obsessed serial killer trying to teach his son the ways of his craft.

Dr. Lauren: That’s a good description.

Darren: And it’s non-spoilery as well because you pretty much know this from the get-go. This is established quickly. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of it, what did you think overall?

Dr. Lauren: I liked it! In some ways, I think it covered ground that’s been covered by other films.

Darren: Yes, that’s true.

Dr. Lauren: But that’s often unavoidable. It also offers a fresh take on some of the themes it’s discussing.

Darren: I’m inclined to agree with you there. There are so many serial killer movies out there that you’d be hard pressed to come up with a different angle but it does try to take things in a slightly different direction. Even though it’s low-budget, you never feel that it shows at all. It’s all very nicely shot, it uses effects when it needs to but doesn’t trowel on the gore.

Dr. Lauren: It’s pretty rough in places.

Darren: Oh yeah, it is, definitely.

Dr. Lauren: I was wincing through it quite a lot.

Darren: It doesn’t pull its punches. Some of the violence is suggested but even that’s pretty grim. When it does properly go for it, you’re right, it’s pretty rough going.

Dr. Lauren: It’s not a very long film, is it? 69 minutes?

Darren: It’s 69 minutes when the closing credits roll. The whole film’s 77 minutes but it’s the slowest closing credit crawl. At one point I was like “Are these credits moving?”. The film, however, doesn’t faff about in terms of getting to its point.

Dr. Lauren: I thought it had a strong opening. I was intrigued about what the hell was going on and I was into it from the moment it started.

Darren: It’s got a fairly downbeat opening.

Dr. Lauren: It sets you up for the rest of it.

Darren: It doesn’t lead you down a path that you’re not expecting. If you’re not with it in the first five or ten minutes you’re not gonna enjoy the rest of it.

Dr. Lauren: No. I think it was interesting that it seems to be set in a dystopian future. It’s not that dissimilar to where we are now but there are some quite obvious differences in the way people speak. Instead of asking a kid where his parents are they ask if he’s got any keepers or owners.

Darren: That’s a good point in that it does seem to be slightly out of time.

Dr. Lauren: You’re aware that we’re in a different time and place but it’s not that different.

Darren: You still have things like a counselling meeting that one of the main characters attends so there’s familiar things still happening but even the place where he works is stylised and slightly odd.

Dr. Lauren: Yeah, I thought that as well. Which reminds me – when we get introduced to the main character, Holden, the soundtrack was absolutely killer!

Darren: Yeah, there’s some full-on angle grinding action to a metal soundtrack.

Dr. Lauren: I think it’s Black Flag. The soundtrack veers been some tense, quite plucky, instrumental stuff through to punky numbers. I thought it worked really well. I’d like to get hold of that soundtrack.

Darren: There’s a nice balance between the score and the songs. It fits the grungy atmosphere as well. I know it’s fairly obvious to say “serial killer movie – metal soundtrack” but it does fit well.

Dr. Lauren: It does.

Darren: And I thought the performances were all pretty decent across the board.

Dr. Lauren: I thought everyone was great in it. I thought the patriarchal figure…

Darren: That’s Artik.

Dr. Lauren: Oh, that’s him?

Darren: It’s only referred to a couple of times but it’s him. At the start, I thought Artik was going to be the kid.

Dr. Lauren: I had it in my head that it was the name of the comic.

Darren: In terms of the comic book, I loved the opening titles. They’re wonderful.

Dr. Lauren: Me and Steve were watching the opening titles and thought “Have we just watched the plot of the film?”.

Darren: It’s a series of really cool comic book panels with blood seeping through them.

Dr. Lauren: I don’t think there’s a bad performance in this. Lauren Ashley Carter is really good but then again she always is.

Darren: Predictably, I’m going to mention how brilliant Lauren Ashley Carter is in absolutely everything.

[NOTE: Darren really likes Lauren Ashley Carter and has been defending the movie Darling since he first saw it at Celluloid Screams]

Dr. Lauren: I think she was maybe a little underused in it.

Darren: She was. We’ve talked previously about people being underused in movies and she really is in this. Also, her performance is quite unlike any other stuff she’s done.

Dr. Lauren: I thought that as well.

Darren: Which shows how versatile she is as an actress. I’m just going to fawn over Lauren Ashley Carter for several minutes now about how fantastic she is.

[THE FAWNING SECTION OF THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN DELETED]

Dr. Lauren: I thought everyone played really well in it. Performances were good, soundtrack was great, I thought the special effects were grand. Overall, I really enjoyed this. If there was one thing I’d say in terms of criticism, it could have been a bit longer.

Darren: Whereas it doesn’t rush to the end because it gives you a fairly lengthy final act where everything you expect to happen in it comes together but when that final movement kicks in it’s only, what, 45 or 50 minutes in.

Dr. Lauren: I never, ever say films could be longer. The main criticism I have of most films is that they’re too long and could do with 10 or 15 minutes chopping out of the middle. This one, I felt at points that it was a little disjointed. I don’t know whether that was deliberate or not. There’s a bit where all of the characters come together after you’ve seen some of them separately throughout the first and some of the second act. When they do come together I wasn’t sure what the timing situation was. They could have been together for a few hours or a couple of days and I wasn’t quite sure.

Darren: I know the thing you mean. They were flicking back and forth between things and I was thinking “are these things happening concurrently?” and I was wondering how long had elapsed. That’s a very, very minor criticism.

Dr. Lauren: Also, I thought the ending was grand but there’s a concept introduced in the very first scene was a little underplayed. By the time it came to the end I was expecting that to be something you got to find out about a lot more whereas it barely got mentioned at all.

Darren: They made quite a big thing of it at the start. I’m with you, I was expecting that to have some weight in the last 10 or 15 minutes and it’s introduced again but it’s not really taken anywhere.

Dr. Lauren: I was a little bit disappointed because I was interested about what was going on with that. It’s very intriguing…

Darren: But you’re given no detail.

Dr. Lauren: It’s just pissed up the wall and no one ever mentions it again!

Darren: It was like this: By the way, did you remember this? We’re gonna use it but we’re only gonna use it as a means of getting to another plot point, we’re not investigating why it was there in the first place or any sort of background to it.

Dr. Lauren: It felt like a missed opportunity.

Darren: Yes. There are certain points in the film that feel underdeveloped. Now, I don’t know if that was to make the whole thing more punchy in the short time frame or whether it was maybe cut down from a longer version but it does seem there’s something missing from part of the plot.

Dr. Lauren: I thought that as well. It’s a solid enough film but I was left wanting a little bit more.

Darren: It doesn’t wreck the ending but it doesn’t give it quite the impact it might have had.

Dr. Lauren: That’s fair.

Darren: Overall, it’s an impressive piece of work. Having read some of the reviews around it there seems to be no middle ground on this one. I don’t think I’ve seen any reviews so far which said “Watched it and it was okay”. This seems to have pushed folks’ buttons one way or the other.

Dr. Lauren: I’d be interested to see how it would play with a festival crowd.

Darren: I do know it played Mayhem and I think it went down pretty well there. Festival crowds are probably going to be more on board with it, they’re going to be more attuned to those titles which move away from the mainstream. Horror festivals do tend to include films like this and I think this would play well.

Dr. Lauren: I’m thinking so. Overall, what do you reckon then?

Darren: I’m going to say three and a half.

Dr. Lauren: Ah yeah! Me too!

Darren: This is all getting a bit bizarre because we both gave The Platform the same score and now this one. It’s well above average, it certainly has strong enough performances to carry it through. The gore’s used reasonably sparingly but when it comes it hits pretty hard.

Dr. Lauren: There was a couple of places where I was kind of getting Martyrs vibes off it. Only a little bit. It’s not as extreme as that, though.

Darren: It has an interesting take on the serial killer’s motives. It isn’t just the fact that he’s crackers and slaughtering people. Without giving anything anyway, it’s something very specific.

Dr. Lauren: I thought the characterisation was quite subtle. With something like this it would be easy to take a serial killer character and go from nought to sixty really quickly.

Darren: For instance, Dead By Dawn.

[Check our previous review of Dead By Dawn here: http://thehorrorcist.com/chekhovs-bobbyknocker-dr-lauren-darren-review-dead-by-dawn-2020/]

Dr. Lauren: In this case, I thought the character was really well developed and was kept quite low-key.

Darren: You get to see him in a family setting and, okay, he’s still not what you’d call normal but it’s interesting to see that. I mean, none of them are normal and Lauren Ashley Carter’s character Flin is probably the most bonkers of the lot.

Dr. Lauren: They’re playing the husband and wife roles and the dynamic between the two of them is quite interesting in that neither is dominant over the other. Particularly if the serial killer is a man, you’d tend to find they’re quite domineering over their partner and that’s not the case at all here, there’s pushing and pulling from them both.

Darren: And Flin clearly takes no shit at all. It makes a nice change that they’re on an equal footing.

Dr. Lauren: She’s just nuts in a different way.

Darren: She might not be heavily involved in the murdering side of things but the things she does to enable it are just as creepy. Over and above, it’s generally a very good piece of work and I’m with you in that it should have been a little longer.

Dr. Lauren: Definitely worth checking out if you’re into slightly gory serial killer films with a rocky soundtrack.

THE SCORES

Dr. Lauren – 3.5 / 5

Darren – 3.5 / 5

About celluloiddeej

Film fan, horror festival goer, karaoke enthusiast, cat whisperer, world traveller, complete idiot. Invite me on your podcast if you can stand the Yorkshire accent.

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