aka A PLACE CALLED HELL
Directed by Andrew Merrill
Written by Andrew Merrill
Starring Kris Alexandrea, Johnny Kostrey, Daniel Amerman, Sara Young Chandler, McKale Jude Bingham, Michaela Reggio, Andre Bolourchi, Adam Burch, William Castrogiovanni, Steven Aaron Cohen, Eileen Dietz, Jill Evyn, David Alan Graf, Paul LeSchofs, David McGuire, Kris Ann Russell, Tahryn Smith, Chris Stathis, Rhandy Torres, Johnny Uhorchuk, Wendy, Derek Schreck, Linda Burzynski
Overwhelmed by grad school responsibilities, Madison (Kris Alexandrea) decides to break up with her boyfriend Jesse (Johnny Kostrey). But when Jesse is infected by some kind of other-worldly evil at his hospital job, Madison is pulled back into his world, attempting to track him down after he has a seizure and goes missing. Meanwhile, Jesse is infecting everyone that crosses his path, adding to the number of a strange, dark, infected army that seems to have designs to possess the entire world.
Fans of films like THEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE, THE DEAD CENTER, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, Carpenter’s PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and Cronenberg’s SHIVERS are going to be the target audience for this one. ROT lacks some of the subtleties of those films which hinge greatly on paranoia, but you can’t help but think of them while watching this one. Paranoia does come into play later in the story, but this one seems to focus on the initial outbreak and how that is affecting this small group of friends. It’s smart to tell an intimate story, as this is a low budgeter. There is not a lot of effects work at play, but writer/director Andrew Merrill delivers on some odd and unsettling scenes involving the way these infected souls interact with one another. Some of them speak freely, attempting to lure in victims. Others stare blankly. Some even run around the room with reckless abandon. The rules of the game here are not really mapped out, but nevertheless, these scenes as the disease, which is spread through passing something from one mouth to another, ended up sending a shiver down my spine. It is because of the vagueness of what exactly this evil is that makes it work so well.
The acting of ROT feels natural, especially Alexandra and Kostrey. Sara Young Chandler, Michaela Reggio, & Johnny Uhorchuk also offer up smaller, but strong performances as the couple’s friends who are trying to understand the breakup and Jesse’s odd behavior. I’m not sure if there is some kind of under-theme going on with ROT. If I were to guess, I’m thinking it might have something to do with how the ending of a relationship resonates far beyond the relationship itself. Or maybe it is about the dark feelings that emerge during a breakup. It’s not exactly clear and not a lot of ROT is, to tell you the truth. This is a vague film that doesn’t explain itself. It may not be successful in delivering a definite evil, but if definitely succeeds at a feeling of uncomfortable paranoia and a ooky sense of body horror. If that’s enough for you, you’re the audience for ROT.