Saturday, November 04, 2017

Cinepocalypse 2017: Charismata

Are two murders sufficient to classify the suspect a serial killer, or is a third killing required? Unfortunately, while Detective-Inspectors Rebecca Faraway and Eli Smith argue the point, it will be rendered moot by their quarry. She will still have plenty to bicker over with her smug partner and the rest of the chauvinistic task force. However, Faraway will have even greater concerns when their chief suspect takes a sinister interest in her during the course of Andy Collier & Toor Mian’s Charismata (trailer here), which screens tonight as part of Cinepocalypse 2017 in Chicago.

These are ritualistic killings with the emphasis on the “ick.” There are pools of blood, satanic markings, and missing body parts. It is never the same body parts removed, but it still safe to call it part of a consistent M.O. It turns out there are other linkages. Two of the bodies were discovered in empty properties awaiting gentrification that were guarded by the same bargain basement security firm and owned by the same up-scale development firm.

Thanks to good police work, Faraway tenuously links Michael Sweet, the firm’s hotshot, youngest-ever partner to the third victim, but he is cool as ice when they bring him in for questioning. In fact, he is clearly much more interested in her than his status as a potential suspect. Soon thereafter, she starts having dreams and hallucinations, featuring Sweet in the starring role. She already has a history of personal problems and instability, so her increased freaky behavior just further alienates her from her colleagues. Of course, that makes her obsess over Sweet even more.

Charismata is a nimble and atmospheric fusion of police procedurals and demonic horror, sort of like Prime Suspect crossed with the better Exorcist sequels. Frankly, the cop stuff works surprisingly well. As Faraway and Smith, Sarah Beck Mather and Andonis Anthony really do not seem to like each other at all, so “chemistry” is not really the right term, but they are terrific playing off each other. David J. Peel and Ethan Chapples add some blunt-spoken comic relief as their knuckleheaded DS and DC, without getting shticky or slapsticky, while Jamie Satterthwaite shamelessly preens and chews the scenery, as befits a cocky as Hell horror movie villain.

Charismata starts modestly, but it raises the tension and the stakes steadily and at an impressively speedy clip. Yet, despite some mostly presentable special effects, this is really a character-driven horror movie. Collier and Mian masterfully control the mood and get some great work out of their ensemble. They also receive a key assist from cinematographer Fernando Ruiz, who makes it all look mysterious and foreboding. Highly recommended for genre fans, Charismata screens tonight (11/4), as part of this year’s Cinepocalypse.