THE WICKED ONE
Firstly, I’d just like to start off by saying thank you to Andy Palmer of Petri Entertainment for allowing me early access to an online screener of “The Wicked One”, a Horror/Slasher film Co-Written/Directed by Tory Jones. The Wicked One follows a five-some made up of two couples and a friend, headed by Alex (played by Katie Stewart) and Adam (Dale Miller) who plan a weekend away to the country for a Halloween inspired concert. Along with couple, Quinton and Kris (played by Adam Atherton and Jessica Bloom) and fifth wheel, Olivia (Sonya Delormier), the group find themselves being hunted by a recently escaped serial killer who goes by the name “The Wicked One” (played by Jack Norman). The film also stars Cheyenne Gordon, Deb Perkins and James Tackett. I thought I’d reach out to Petri Entertainment after having seen and reviewed a couple of Palmer’s films in “Badlands Of Kain” and “The Funhouse Massacre”, two really good quality films *see reviews* https://adamthemoviegod.com/badlands-of-kain-review/ and https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-funhouse-massacre-review/. It’s great to see Andy not only making films but distributing them as well. Thanks go to Tory Jones as well.
You don’t have to look all that far to see that Director, Tory Jones is first and foremost a fan of the slasher sub-genre, particularly some of those films from the early 80’s. Filmmakers don’t usually opt to shoot this kind of film unless they are big fans of the genre. These days originality is pretty much all but unattainable (unless you’re the extremely creative type), so the next best thing to do is to at least attempt to pay homage to the kinds of films you’re imitating. I like the look of the Wicked One mask but that’s probably because I’ve seen it before. It’s essentially a mash-up of the villain’s mask from David Ryan Keith’s “The Redwood Massacre” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-redwood-massacre-review/ and the killer in Rene Perez’s, “Playing With Dolls” (films which were both made prior to this). Now that’s all just semantics really, it’s not enough to put me off the film but nonetheless, I’ve seen it before and I’ll no doubt see it again. Along with having a small role in the film, Roman Jossart was the DP. I remember Jossart from “Don’t Fuck In The Woods” but I had no idea he had the technical know-how in his skill set. Most of the framing looks good and some of the camera techniques are quite impressive given this is a low-budget affair. The primary location is a lovely, heavily wooded area and the film opens with a nice tracking shot as Colin comes up and out of the cellar. Later, there’s another reverse tracking shot as he chases a girl through an area of the asylum that’s under construction. In addition, a high to low panning shot is used outside the asylum and my favourite sequence employs three or four superbly smooth shots of a man in an antique store.
The music was a bit hit and miss for me but like most things, its subjective. The live band used in the film are called “Vintage Voodoo”, they’re essentially a Rock band that sound like something from the 80’s or early 90’s. I preferred the fusion sounding synth score to the band, though even that was a little one-dimensional and didn’t manage to elevate the suspense level. Some of Tory’s little nods to several classic slasher flicks added a nice touch. Characters and location names are taken from past films and there was even a tip of the hat to Ryan Nicholson’s “Gutterballs”, with the inclusion of a party-goer that dons a bowling ball bag atop his head. Jones script reveals a sufficient amount of exposition surrounding Colin (aka The Wicked One) and the inner workings of his mind, but it’s mostly through the writing, not visually. He’s said to have heard voices and that’s the reason for the murders, regrettably the viewer doesn’t get much more than that thin pointer. The performances are fairly standard for this type of affair but I still liked seeing Stewart and Miller pair up again, the two previously acted in a short I reviewed called “Hazard” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/hazard-review-2/. Atherton supplies a bit of comedic relief and Bloom is serviceable, although she’s given very little to work with. Gordon plays Travis, Alex’s brother. Most of the internal drama stems from their rocky relationship. I respect the writing surrounding Olivia’s character arc, because in the beginning she’s somewhat of an unknown, whereas you feel like you know pretty much all there is to know about the others. There’s a decent body count on display and some solid practical blood spray during most of the kills. On the downside, several of the deaths occur off-screen and there’s no real prosthetics or gags to speak of, which is rare for a slasher these days. Keep in mind that this is a low-budget independent film, that said, at the very least it needed more blood spray.
A lot of my complaints with The Wicked One are technical related ones, but there’s also personal preferences with the content too. The cinematography is not without fault. On more than one occasion it seems as if Jossart is trying to find the desired distance for the shot mid-frame, and then just eventually settles on an over the shoulder shot. That option is used numerous times throughout the film, there’s also a bit of uneven camera work in the scene that reveals Trevor sitting in the graveyard. Those inconsistencies only stand out because everything else is so well shot. The film begins with a brief section of home video footage, static tape lines and on-screen data to accompany it. The whole thing feels rather unnecessary considering it transitions straight into modern footage shortly there after. Though that may have just been Jones showing his appreciation for the days of VHS and SOV (shot on video). What follows is the first death in the film, which I must say was a little lack-lustre. I mean you never really lead with a standout death (for the most part), but this one looks as if the effects team hadn’t quite worked out their blood coloring and consistency before shooting, so the result doesn’t hit the mark. Audio, Lighting and Music are all suspect at different stages throughout the film. The external scenes have fairly consistent audio but the dialogue sequences inside the asylum, either hiss or echo and you can’t always make out what the characters are saying. There’s a cool “Jaws” esq, three note piano piece used in part of the film, but it leads into a scene that isn’t remotely suspenseful, yet an earlier scene that could have used it doesn’t. Then there’s another eerie piano score that bleeds over into a dialogue scene between Alex and Olivia, where once again nothing is really happening. The lighting is probably the most disappointing aspect of the film. Most of the color appears washed out (which may have been the intention) and from scene to scene the quality of light changes. There’s such a contrast, with shots outside looking considerably better than anything inside. The diner scene is far too dark and so is the asylum content, so much so that you can’t always see the actors faces. The various wide shots utilizing yellow inside the barn, look fantastic. It’s a pity the same can’t be said about all those close-ups during the romance between Quinton and Kris. That part of the film doesn’t look as if it was lit at all, nothing in the shot draws you in because it’s all murky.
I know we’re all inspired by something, but it pays to breathe some of your own creativity into your writing (I’m not saying that’s easy). I understand that it’s a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re exposed to a lot of films, but if there’s not even a trace of it then what you end up with is just a rehash of formulaic clichés. Slasher fans aren’t usually that hard to please (well most of us) but when Jones unfortunately lifts enough of a scene from Rob Zombie’s “Halloween” to raise a red flag, it’s hard for a reviewer to ignore it. Other questionable particulars occur, such as a muzzle like contraption covering Colin’s face, (Hannibal Lector eat your heart out) then his placed in an asylum/institute of which you just know he’s just going to break out of. Then head of the facility, Sybil Shaw (Perkins) walks us through the dangerous criminals they house, throw in a trio of hapless and childish security guards making bets and you’ve got yourself a scene from Halloween (more or less). Come to think of it, “The Funhouse Massacre” begins in almost the same fashion (though it had to be that way for the origin of the story to work). The dialogue between said guards during those scenes is predictable and immature, fortunately it gets a little better as the story picks up with Alex and Co. Speaking of dialogue, Perkins is guilty of momentarily pausing a few times during her early scenes, as if she’s thinking about her lines prior to actually saying them. There’s more than a handful of specifics here that don’t add up either. For example, Sybil claims that the facility holds all the worst serial killers from around the world, yet we’re told that Colin only killed five people. I’m not sure if that classifies the worst of the worst but okay, I can swallow that part. So these guys are dangerous then? The most dangerous psychopaths you can get, right? Well okay then, one might ask why the rooms clearly have wooden doors attached to them. It probably wasn’t a great decision to show those four or five wooden doors being opened by guards for guests to take a gander inside, especially because the other prisoners have no real bearing on Colin escaping (he would have anyways). Bringing me to my next question, How was he able to get free from the restraints in the first place? I guess the same way Michael Myers did. You don’t actually get to see Colin escape, it’s one of those times they conveniently cut to an irrelevant conversation instead, and later return to the old body switcharoo. I would’ve loved a more realistic approach in order to move that part of the story forward. It’s also established quite early on that Adam comes from a military background, though when it comes to his combat skills you wouldn’t know it. He’s less than useless. He gets his ass beat numerous times by The Wicked One, so I’m not sure about that one.
I’ve been highly anticipating the release of The Wicked One since following it from its pre-production phase through to the re-shoot. It’s nice to see it finally come top fruition. Tory’s love for the iconic slasher film is ever-present with this ambitious attempt, so I give him some credit. I do like the mask and that the antagonist has a reliable past grounded in reality. A sizeable amount of the cinematography looks great and these guys are only going to continue to improve. Some of the synth score fits the mold and there’s some solid practical blood and gore effects that look good. The performances do range a bit but everyone is serviceable given the amount of experience and the budget constraints that go along with that. It’s unfortunate that a lot of the technical aspects weren’t carried out as well as they could have been. The score needed a lot of restructuring and editing, the audio must have been a constant battle and the lighting just simply isn’t adequate, at times barely even present. A lot of those imperfections can often be chalked up to budget and time constraints but the failed inner workings of the script were certainly preventable. I had difficulty looking past the holes in the specifics and some of those sequences that almost border plagiarism. More practical effects and excessive graphic kills would’ve been a welcomed distraction, but I understand that’s not always possible. Hardcore slasher fans might be able to find something in here that I couldn’t, so be sure to check out the trailer below. You can also pre-order the film here if you’re interested: https://www.amazon.com/Wicked-One/dp/B06WPBNMWC/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1492429666&sr=1-2&keywords=the+wicked+one
My rating for “The Wicked One” is 4/10