M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Five of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2014 and going through September 30, 2015. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t! Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on July 3, 2015. Available On Demand, digital download, and Blu-ray/DVD! Also streaming on Amazon Prime!

CLOSER TO GOD (2014)

Directed by Billy Senese
Written by Billy Senese
Starring Jeremy Childs, Shelean Newman, Shannon Hoppe, David Alford, Isaac Disney, Glenn Cartwright, Rebecca Lines, Joshua Childs, Anna Garges, Piper Hoppe, Emily Landham, Olivia Lyle, John Schuck, Jake Speck
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here

This modern-day take on IT’S ALIVE is one of the most compelling and well-realized Frankenstein-themed films of the year. CLOSER TO GOD is poignant, resonant, and downright jaw-droppingly good at times, showing you don’t need a huge budget or giant names to make a horror film work—just some strong ideas and a solid cast.

Jeremy Childs from TV’s NASHVILLE plays Victor (obviously a reference to Victor Von Frankenstein), who has secretly cloned a human child using some of his own DNA. While the entire operation has been done in secret in order to evade the law and the press, a mole in Victor’s team is leaking information to the media, and when little Elizabeth (another nod to the Mary Shelley classic) is born, the board rushes to get ahead of the press and issue a news conference making the announcement. As the child continues to grow stronger, so does the opposition protesting outside of the lab she is housed. With religious groups and pro-cloning groups battle it out on the sidewalks out front, things get really tense when Victor moves Elizabeth to his own gated home. Though his wife Claire (Shannon Hoppe) is supportive, she is terrified of what this means to Victor’s actual two daughters and the sanctity of their home. When the protesters show up outside their home, tensions reach a boiling point. But the real twist is that Elizabeth is not the first baby Victor has cloned, and the reject clone, given to the groundskeepers and kept in a bolted room on the same grounds, is proving to be too much to handle.

From the description above, it’s evident that there’s a lot going on here. The moral debate as to whether we should create life is always smack dab in the center, but the film does a fantastic job of showing the big picture of how the revelation that a human has been created though scientific means ripples out into something truly horrific. The film gives some screen time to many of the opinions shared by those differing viewpoints screaming at one another holding picket signs, and really handles the whole thing with a mature and sophisticated hand that you normally don’t see in horror films these days. The film moves along as if some omniscient god (aka the screenwriter/director Billy Senese) is moving chess pieces in a tension-filled game where every move is well thought out and makes complete sense every step of the way.

I’ve never seen NASHVILLE and am not familiar with actor Jeremy Childs, but he does an absolutely phenomenal job here as our mad doctor Victor. Childs is not your typical Hollywood leading man. Bespectacled, balding, and sweaty, instead of polished studio good looks, Childs more resembles what you think a scientist would look like; casting Childs in the lead role is a ballsy move for director Senese, and it works in the film’s benefit in making it all the more believable. Childs offers up a subtle performance that some might see as distanced, but in his nuanced glances at Elizabeth you can really tell he cares about this child he created—probably more so than his own children, which says a lot about his character as well. Not knowing Childs from previous roles made things all the more convincing for me as this doctor struggles with how the world accepts his creation.

The subplot of the rejected child given to the housekeepers is also handled especially well. Shelean Newman’s role as Mary the housekeeper is especially riveting as an overworked and conflicted keeper of Victor’s secret first child, Ethan. The toll it takes to care for an unpredictable special needs child is reflected in every grey hair on her head and every wrinkle in her face. Her plight as a caring person pushed to her limits, and being terrified of the monster the baby has become, is palpable in this story, and Newman conveys that amazingly. I absolutely loved the way the rejected child’s story comes to the forefront as the tension mounts and Victor is forced to confront Ethan, his dirty secret, at the most inopportune time, and the confrontation between maker and his first rejected creation is about as powerful and gut-wrenching as any Frankenstein and his Monster confrontation I’ve ever seen.

While there are significant effects in this film, this is not a film that is used to highlight these effects and put them on display. The effects are there simply to function as a means to show the science at play, and while Ethan’s visage is quite horrific, it is only glimpsed at here, as his actions are much more monstrous that his actual looks.

CLOSER TO GOD is one of the best films of the year. Anyone who never grows tired of reinterpretations of Mary Shelley’s classic novel will be impressed at the limits this film pushes and the real world ramifications entertained in the story. It’s a smart and modern take on an age-old tale that breathes new life into it in ways that are both heart-wrenching to witness and challenging to one’s very morals. I loved this film. Make sure to put CLOSER TO GOD on your “to see” list.

Click here for the trailer!


THE 2014-2015 COUNTDOWN!


#21 – CLOSER TO GOD
#22 – WE ARE STILL HERE
#23 – A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
#24 – WYRMWOOD: ROAD OF THE DEAD
#25 – THE EDITOR
#26 – DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD
#27 – PARA ELISA
#28 – THE HOUSES OCTOBER BUILT
#29 – FROM THE DARK
#30 – EXISTS
#31 – A PLAGUE SO PLEASANT


M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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