Art of the Dead comes at a time where horror films featuring artwork are on the rise, with The Devil's Candy (2017) and this year's lackluster Velvet Buzzsaw making the top of the list. However, in general there isn't an overabundance of horror films which feature the horrors within a piece of art. It just so happens that this film is the second one of its kind released this year and while Art of the Dead is through and through a B-horror movie, it manages to capitalize on its absolutely absurd story much more appropriately than Velvet Buzzsaw was even willing to go.
Whether purposeful or not, the film is shockingly cheesy and at times reminiscent of the work of Tommy Wiseau; that is if he were to direct a horror film. I admired some aspects of the filmmaking process more than others, such as the inside of the artwork view that granted us a look from the demons within, but on the opposite side of the spectrum, the film featured far too many long looming shots of the artwork on the walls. The artwork itself isn't scary, it's not mesmerizing, and in the simplest of terms, it’s dull. However, director Rolfe Kanefsky brings a strong out of this decade vibe to the production, bringing an atmosphere that feels like something a studio would have easily greenlit back in the mid 80s alongside the likes of The Evil Dead. It's incredibly odd and occasionally unfocused, but in the end you'll be fascinated by just how bizarre the entire picture is.
Art of the Dead follows the Wilsons, a wealthy family who have just purchased a collection of artwork to add some color to their home. As the paintings hang even for a short amount of time, demonic entities begin to hypnotize the family into becoming the animals being portrayed within the art. The script is incredibly unique, as every time you begin to figure things out, the screenwriter throws your logic away and welcomes a brand new factor that disintegrates your theories from before. Kanefsky had a field day with just how far he was willing to take the story, and while factors in his direction and casting hinders the writing… there's still a solid horror film within.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
To summarize the acting in Art of the Dead in one word, it’d have to be subpar, although I did find several actors took their roles in a rather fun direction. One of our leads, Zachary Chyz (Louis), gives a performance reminiscent of the delivery Greg Sestero gave in Best F(r)iends, along with a few others who took their roles a little too seriously considering the context of the film. It’s a fascinating piece of filmmaking, and the strange mix of acting styles makes this an even odder experience. A warning figure in the form of a former priest just feels forced in to have a person that's gone through the trauma of the paintings - though Robert Donovan gave an honorable performance in the role, it still didn't seem all that necessary. The only large fault I have with the film is the use of Tara Reid, as she wasn’t necessary for the film and seems to be there just to have a slightly “famous” actor be involved; her delivery was incredibly lacking.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
For such a small production, it's impressive to hear any vibrant and noticeable song from a popular band such as The Black Keys being played. The song didn't exactly need to be in the particular scene, but it was a welcome changeup for the ears. For the remainder of the film we are surrounded by a mixture of score that rotates between each deadly sin being showcased at the moment. While it may be an ever changing score, it does tend to repeat itself as the sins return to the screen and this repetition becomes tedious when the film draws to a close.
The effects were a long way away from stunning, however that doesn't mean that the effects weren't worthy of some praise. In fact, a corruption of several characters personalities shined brightly, with several characters becoming the animalistic reflections of the seven deadly sins hanging on the walls. That same corruption doesn't shine so brightly when the effects don't quite match the level you'd expect - primarily speaking of the transformation of our "lead” Louis into his animal figure. This was possibly the weakest element of the film, as the effects needed a little more fine tuning and a little more of a budget to help them reach the level the script deemed necessary.
Art of the Dead is a radical shift from your everyday horror film. With some absolutely insane practical effects and one absurdly abnormal story to tell, it's a one of a kind experience that easily surpasses the competition in memorability alone.