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GNAW (2017)

Directed by Haylar Garcia
Written by Jim Brennan, Haylar Garcia, Kathryn Gould
Starring Penelope Mitchell, Sally Kirkland, Chris Johnson, Kyle Gass, Han Soto, Dan Davidson, Kathryn Gould, Kristin Keating, Graham Emmons, Nelson Goforth, Elisa Vasquez, Susan Bellone
Find out more about this film here

GNAW is a little movie about a little monster with a whole lot of heart. It’s definitely going to get your skin crawling, but it’ll also leave you with an undeniable smile on your face.

Jennifer (Penelope Mitchell) is trying to start her life over. She just got out of an abusive relationship with an asshole cop and moves to the city in order to get a new job, a new apartment, and a new life. After moving in, she befriends her somewhat nosy, but well intentioned neighbor (played by TENACIOUS D’s Kyle Glass) and immediately realizes that the vents in her new apartment serve as an eavesdropping device on her neighbor, who seems to spend all night weeping loudly. But when she goes over to investigate, she coincidentally knocks just as she blows her brains out. Shaken by the scene, but thankful that she may finally get a good night’s sleep, Jennifer begins finding small welts on her body. As time passes, the welts seem to spread. Is Jennifer hurting herself in her sleep? Or is something up with the little antique jewelry box Jennifer finds in her neighbor’s trash? The answer is a lot of itchy, gory, and action-packed fun.

The thing that’s sold me on this film even before the weird stuff starts to happen is the undeniable likability of GNAW’s lead actress Penelope Mitchell. With her laid back mannerisms and sideways smile, the actress really embodies the girl next door mentality mixed with supermodel good looks. I can see Mitchell going far as she really dazzles here in a role that is emotionally and physically taxing from beginning to end. Mitchell conveys vulnerability and fragility at times, but is able to turn it around by the time of the climax and play a truly strong and formidable character.

Reminiscent of Karen Black’s arduous duel with the little Zuni fetish doll in TRILOGY OF TERROR, the final twenty minutes of GNAW is absolute gold as Jennifer and a wee beastie go head to head in her apartment with much blood, gore, crashing, and thrashing. While the buildup to this conflict is pretty patient and gradual, the end definitely delivers in a faceoff of epic proportions. And on top of some truly nail-biting action, the film saves all of its special effects for the final reel, delivering in a creature that is both memorable looking and is seamlessly incorporated into the frame. The CG effects in the final moments of this film are awesome and those behind GNAW should give a course to other filmmakers how to be conservative with their effects and when to effectively use them.

But no effects laden showdown would be worth a spit without the talent of the lead and the strength of the story. In GNAW, you can’t help but root for Mitchell’s Jennifer to pull through. This is a fantastic little body horror/little monster movie. It’s got a protagonist worth falling for with a story that yanks on the heartstrings. It’s also got a hell of a little monster. GNAW will leave you itching and cheering all at once.