Trinity (2016): Surreal and Haunting Imagery (Review)

Sean Carmichael as Michael

Written and directed by Skip Shea (his first feature length film) Trinity is a movie about sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and its aftereffects. Michael (Sean Carmichaelis an artist who does portraits of the dead using their ashes. He bumps into his abuser; Father Tom, (David Graziano) at a local coffee shop. This prompts the remainder of the film which is a surreal trip of vivid and haunting imagery. 

The journey is, in itself, cathartic and revealing. Shea shows us just how many conflicting emotions are hidden in each survivor of sexual abuse by a trusted member of the church.

Trinity, the title of the film, refers, obviously, to the “holy trinity” taught by the church. “The Father, the son and the holy Spirit (or Ghost)” which must be believed in by follows of the Catholic faith. The term could also refer to the three acts in the film. It could also make reference to the triangle that exists between Michael, Father Tom and his mother (Played brilliantly by veteran horror actress Lynn Lowry).

It it the latter instance where Shea shows how deeply wounded Michael is by his encounter with Tom. In the scene, Michael, as an adult, is pushed toward the father. Prior to the “passing over” his mother kisses him suggestively several times. This clearly indicates that Michael feels just as violated by his mother as he does Father Tom.

The entire film owes much to the French filmmaker Robert Enrico and his 1962 film Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. A short film, shot entirely in black and white, it loses none of its haunting beauty or message even today.  

Shea is not aping the film. He is, however, utilizing a similar technique of storytelling. It works brilliantly in this instance. One event triggering another which in turn triggers more and more occurrences, memories and emotions. Enrico’s film is not as in-depth as Shea’s offering but the feeling is the same.

Haunting, most surely. Surreal, most definitely. An uncomfortable, sad, angry and horrible journey faces the protagonist. There are moments where Shea shows us that Michael feels ill equipped to deal with the torturous memories and pseudo explanations offered by those who claim to help.

As shot by cinematographer Nolan Yee (Who also shot the superlative “A Life Not to Follow” and was the DP for Shea’s award winning short film Ave Maria.) the film itself is stunning to look at. The imagery, the subdued and bright lighting, that is used to accentuate the various scenes is nigh on perfect.

Sean Carmichael as Michael does a smashing job as the outwardly calm, serene artist whose internal dialogue borders on the insane. After being triggered by his chance meeting with the priest who sexually abused him, the artist takes a dark and disturbing trip down a sour confusing rabbit hole.

Carmichael is also a fascinating character.  His personal choice of tools to create his portraits, the ashes of the subject is beyond bizarre and yet, oddly, it makes perfect sense.

David Graziano (a personal favorite) oozes a sort of filthy aura masked by his false jocularity and sincerity. Once again, there are clues about how each main character in this story see themselves. When Graziano, as Father Tom, speaks with his now grown victim, he looks down making eye contact with the artist’s lower chest. It is clear that the clergyman still sees   Michael as the boy he abused. 

Kudos to Beatrice di Giovanni who played Beatrice in the film. She manages to be captivating and endearing while playing her part on the story. 

Lynn Lowry manages, in the scant moments she is in the film, to show why she is an award winning actress still very much in demand.  Lowry manages to convey a range of emotions with little more than a glance and those kisses.

Poster for Trinity

Trinity is a full 5 star film. Everything that Shea does here meshes together perfectly to show the inner workings of the grown victim. The overly loud music, which serves to disorient the viewer (in sympathy with the protagonist) does not drown out the dialogue but filters it instead. A masterful touch that many filmmakers have yet to learn.

The film is currently on the festival circuit. Skip tells us that Trinity has been seen in a total of 19 festivals has garnered four awards. The film has picked up Best Director at the Amazon Undergound Film Festival (Brazil), Best Editor at the Arte Non Stop Festival in Argentina, Best Actress for Lynn Lowry at the HorrorHound Film Festival (USA) and Best Special Effects for Phil “Skippy” Adams at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in Italy.

Shea also revealed that this film was the result of his own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

Trinity Trailer from Skip Shea on Vimeo.

Dementia (2015) Home Care Thriller (Review)

Kristina Klebe in Dementia

Written by Meredith Berg and directed by Mike Testin “Dementia” is  a thriller about a Vietnam war hero; George Lockhart (Gene Jones) who is felled by a stroke and requires home care. Nurse Michelle (Kristina Klebe)  is hired by his son and granddaughter to look after the veteran, who has also been diagnosed with the onset of dementia,  and she turns out to have a hidden agenda. 

The film starts with Lockhart chasing off two bullies with a rifle and while giving the victim advice, the man has a stroke.  George may be a war hero, but he is a tortured individual with a secret or two of his own. One of these comes back to haunt him.

Lockhart brought home injuries after being tortured in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. Like many others with PTSD George had an alcohol problem was was prone to violence. His son dislikes him and is happy to leave him in the care of a stranger.  George’s granddaughter Shelby (Hassie Harrison) is concerned about Michelle and feels something is not right about the nurse. 

Michelle mistreats George when his family are not around and gives him medication that has not been prescribed.   Lockhart tries to fight back against Michelle but she is in charge and isolates him from everyone.  Shelby starts investigating the nurse and her fears intensify.

The film is classified as a horror thriller.  While the plot may not be overly complex, we figure out early on that there is something wrong with Michelle, it is not until later that it becomes clear that this is personal with the nurse. This is not a random event;  Michelle has picked George for a reason.

“Dementia” has gotten a fairly  low rating on IMDb. However Rotten Tomatoes has given the film pretty positive feedback.  Overall, this is a great low budget horror/thriller with a story that is compelling. The message  being that forced death, at any age, changes people in deep and disturbing ways.

George Lockhart emerged from his experiences in the Vietnam War as a bit of a monster, racked by flashbacks, rage and murderous intent.  The decorated veteran is not a nice man but he was changed by the war and his treatment by the enemy inflected long lasting damage.

Klebe’s character was also formed by her history and chillingly, we learn that she has been searching a long time for George.

Perhaps the only real problem, apart from the fact that dementia is a disturbing disease that many have had personal connections with, is that none of the characters are overly  likable.  Certainly George starts off that way, but all too soon, his dementia and his son’s feelings about Lockhart change how the audience view him.

Jones, whom I’d only ever seen in “No Country for Old Men” (as the petrol station owner who bets his life on a quarter),  gives a brilliant performance here. He causes us to pity him one moment and then fear him the next.   His reveal, caused by Michelle’s carefully cruel orchestrations,  ultimately destroys any empathy we have for his character.

Klebe gives great “nut-job” as she gets further into her job as punisher.  Initially the actress plays the professional card beautifully to two relatives who never bother to check her credentials. Once Klebe’s character is in control, she starts very slowly to unravel the cloak of normalcy and reveals the madness underneath.  Kristina is scary in the film and may keep many from ever considering live-in care for a loved one.

Harrison, as Shelby, does well but, once again, her character is not overly likable either. A granddaughter who steals George’s medication does not endear the audience to her cause.  She also lies about the necklace, which she thought was her grandmother’s, and one gets the feeling that she may only be trying to get on with George for gain and not any real sense of family.

The real message here is the realization that our lives are shaped by experiences and that tragedy (murder) manifests itself in horrible ways.  It can also be said that in this film, as in real life, heroes are not always nice people and that war is a gift that keeps on giving.

“Dementia” is a 3.5 star film that is available on Netflix, and via DVD and Blu-Ray,  from May 17.  This is  a cracking little movie that, if  you pay attention, will entertain the viewer and make them think.  Catch this one if you can.

 

’54 Days’ Independent Australian Film Is Truly Gripping (Review/Trailer)

’54 Days’ Independent Australian Film Is Truly Gripping (Review/Trailer)

54 Days, an independent Australian film from Tim R. Lea is a truly gripping bit of work that goes to show just how great cinema is that comes from Oz. It has to be pointed out that of the best horror and science fiction films out of the last 20 years, quite an impressive number have come from “the land down under,” and this award winning festival favorite joins a lot of popular movies that have either become cult favorites or great additions to a film genre.

Infliction: Documentary Style Film has Great Story but Slow Pace

Infliction: Documentary Style Film has Great Story but Slow Pace

Infliction is the latest film by writer/director Jack Thomas Smith and the documentary style film does have a great story, but moves along at a slow pace. This is the director’s second feature, the first being his 2006 debut film Disorder and both features deal with the dark theme of murder. In this film, however, the emphasis is more on familial origins and interactions with all their direct and indirect consequences. Publicized as being the actual footage of two brothers and their murder spree it comes close to depicting that premise.

Infliction: Documentary Style Film has Great Story but Slow Pace

Infliction: Documentary Style Film has Great Story but Slow Pace

Infliction is the latest film by writer/director Jack Thomas Smith and the documentary style film does have a great story, but moves along at a slow pace. This is the director’s second feature, the first being his 2006 debut film Disorder and both features deal with the dark theme of murder. In this film, however, the emphasis is more on familial origins and interactions with all their direct and indirect consequences. Publicized as being the actual footage of two brothers and their murder spree it comes close to depicting that premise.