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David Moscow’s DESOLATION (2017)

Directed by David Moscow
Written by Craig Walendziak, Matthew McCarty
Starring Raymond J. Barry, Dominik García-Lorido, Brock Kelly, Cailey Fleming, Ninja N. Devoe, Maria Volk, Andrew Bilgore, Roy Vongtama, Deniz Olgac, Gregory Thomas, Julia Lescova, Theresa Gause, Ben Jewell, Isabel Juliet
Find out more about this film @DesolationFilm and on Facebook here

The second horror film named DESOLATION I’ve checked out this year (see my review of Sam Patton’s wilderness survival horror film with the same name here) is another powerhouse of a horror flick with a completely different terrifying concept. David Moscow (aka the all groweds-up kid from BIG) presents a timely and resonant little terror about the horror of fame and the lengths people go in order to become a celebrity.

Katie (Dominik García-Lorido) is a naïve lass working as a maid in a small town hotel that just happens to be the location shoot for a up and coming Hollywood actor Jay (Brock Kelly). We come to understand that Katie is a rape survivor, is shy and withdrawn and is hesitant to get into any kind of relationship, which is why she is so surprised when Jay shows interest in her. After spending the night with Jay, Katie agrees to take a trip with Jay back to Hollywood and stay with him for an undetermined amount of time. But when Jay leaves on a quick shoot out of town, he leaves Katie alone in his apartment and weird things begin happening. First she is followed home by strangers, then the apartment is broken into. After losing her medication, Katie begins to doubt what is real and what isn’t as her paranoia begins to grow. Soon, Katie is running for her life, seemingly trapped in the apartment building with the viewer wondering if all of this is in Katie’s head or if there is something much more terrible going on.

The concept behind DESOLATION is a winner. With so many stories of young women being taken advantage of in Hollywood, this film feels more relevant than ever. Kaite is a fish out of water, reliant on Jay and trusting him though she knows him for a very short time. She is looking for that Prince Charming to ride in and sweep her off her feet and in this film, he seems like he does just that. But as soon as Katie sets foot in the apartment building, it’s evident that this is going to go south fast. Director David Moscow is able to convey a strong sense of paranoia with people side-eyeing Katie and discussing things in whispers. Katie and the viewer are made privy to odd goings on with Jay’s Hollywood friends. And the camera POV’s from hallways, stairs, and even the pool give the viewer a strong sense of big brother watching at all times. Moscow is able to convey this sense with a lot of skill, using multiple tricks to make the viewer leery of what is happening. Having Katie lose her medication is a nice twist and again, makes the viewer question everything going on. Is this really happening or is it all in Katie’s head? The nice part about this film is that it could go either way for a long period of time.

My only real issue with DESOLATION is that the film rushes a bit too quickly at the beginning to get Katie into Jay’s Hollywood apartment. We don’t really get to see anything about Jay that would make him so special that someone would run off all willy-nilly and leave their world behind. Sure he’s got floppy hair and abs, but Brock Kelly doesn’t really bring a lot in terms of personality. Because of this, it is harder to sympathize with Katie for making such a bonehead move as to impulsively follow Jay into this unknown world. Had one or two scenes been fleshed out to include some more getting to know you time between Katie and Jay, justifying this huge leap, it would have felt more natural. Dominik García-Lorido is decent as Katie, but at times, the script asks for her to emote a little outside of her wheelhouse. Again, I guess the lack of pizzazz between Garcia-Lorido and Kelly really does make it harder to empathize with Katie and this decision to leave her world behind because she boned a bo-hunk.

Still, things like this do happen in the world and maybe this film does too good a job of showing a realistic scenario. There are those who trust too soon and there are those who are more than happy to leap all over that. This film is just the perfect storm of a naïve person getting caught up in a truly horrible situation. DESOLATION is a highly effective exercise in paranoia and manages to be filled with solid thrills until the very end. Had the acting been a bit more on point, I think my criticism would have been less so, but as is, there is a lot to like and be uncomfortable with in DESOLATION.