Directed by Tom Botchii
Written by Tom Botchii
Starring Chase Williamson, Jerry G. Angelo, Lauren Ashley Carter, Matt Mercer, Gavin White, David Robbins, William Ward, Kari White
There’s a reason that everyone knows the term—“The shortest distance between two lines is a straight line.” It’s because, put even more simply, simplicity is often the best way to tell a story. And that’s the type of story ARTIK tells. It’s a straight up slasher story with a small cast in a single locale for the most part. There are films out there this year with all kinds of pomp and flourish. They were most likely made on a budget ten to one hundred times the budget of ARTIK, but none of them possess the big, bad balls this film has. This is one gnarly, gruff, and gritty slasher film that goes straight in for the kill and hits you like a sledgehammer from beginning to end.
A comic book obsessed man-monster named Artik (Jerry G. Angelo) leads a family of outcasts comprised of his doting wife Flin Brays (Lauren Ashley Carter) and a dozen feral children he treats like farm animals. Artik has a specific philosophy, gleaned from his comics—“Everyone should be tested in life and those who last the longest are worthiest of the best death.” Artik sends his oldest son Boy Adam (Gavin White) to search for people he can put to this test and is training Adam to be as proficient a killer as he is. But when Adam runs into straight-edge mechanic Holton (Chase Williamson) and his AL-ANON counselor Kar (Matt Mercer), he accidentally leads them back to Artik’s farm which spells doom to any and all outsiders.
There’s a primal ferocity to Jerry G. Angelo’s portrayal of Artik. He’s a bit of a mumbler and though he has labored breath, every action does and word he spouts has a fire and thunder to it. It is a performance that should go down as one of the newest and best monsters in horror this year. Artik is clear in his motives and is unflinching in the terror he unleashes with his hammer and spikes (and he ain’t so bad with a shotgun either). While evil clowns and zombies can be scary, the true terror comes from the fact that there are men like Artik out there and running into them in an alley much more likely. That’s truly terrifying and every time Angelo is on screen he exudes a power that most movie monsters only dream to achieve.
The rest of the cast is made up of some genre greats. Lauren Ashley Carter (who also appeared in the fun GAGS THE CLOWN) continues to prove she is one of the most talented actresses in horror. Here she plays a person just as unpredictable and wild as her husband Artik and holds her own in her scenes with him. JOHN DIES AT THE END’s Chase Williamson is likable as the unlikely hero, a mechanic who leads a clean and sober lifestyle and is refreshingly positive, despite his grease stained exterior. He offers a subtle, yet thoughtful performance here. Matt Mercer (CONTRACTED 1 & 2) also does a great job as a somewhat naïve counselor, just looking to help, but stupid enough to accept Artik’s invitation into his realm.
Despite Angelo’s ginormous stature, the other big star of ARTIK is the score by Corey Wallace. This film uses the same kind of anvil smashing percussion from beginning to end. This film is punctuated with thunderous beats and noises. The sheer amount of these destructive slams and crashes make for a subliminal sense of unease that occurs throughout the entire film. It makes every move feel dangerous and unpredictable.
This is the first full-length feature film from director Tom Botchii and from the looks of ARTIK, he has a grand career ahead of him. Botchii knows how to whittle away all of the unnecessary fat to this story and instead shows only what’s necessary. Artik and his family are mysterious characters and this film left me asking for more about this twisted clan of monsters. But the film Botchii offers is like a Mike Tyson fight—short, sweet, and brutal. While the film is light on gore, there are all kinds of bizarre imagery and grueling violence to devour. I also have to give this film props to the MOTEL HELL homage. If I have some kind of criticism of the film, I guess it would be that I wanted more. Still, I felt like everything I did get with ARTIK was everything I want in a horror film—unpredictable, intense, and dangerous.
I also would have loved to see a bit more about the comics. I understand that this film is a low budgeter and that getting the rights to Marvel and DC Comics might have been impossible. But there are plenty of old school comics that could have been highlighted. Instead we are shown some extremely disturbing artwork from Artik’s workshop, which is nightmare fuel and featured prominently throughout the film.
One of the biggest horror surprises of the year is ARTIK. Do not miss this one. Any fan of the slasher films of the 80’s will love this one. And while it feels like an old school slasher, the film itself feels fresh in the fact that it is what is it and doesn’t try to be anything more or less. With a truly unique antagonist, a score that will leave blisters, and a story that will grip you by the throat and refuse to let go, ARTIK is what good horror is all about. See it now!