Film Review: DESOLATION (2017)

“Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you…”

That could very easily be the log line for director DAVID MOSCOW’S riveting thriller, DESOLATION. It could also be aptly subtitled “Gaslighting Katie”, for all of the severe psychological torture that the heroine has to endure. Moscow, a steadily working actor known for films such as DEAD AIR with genre icon Bill Moseley, and RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS with Drew Barrymore, makes his directorial debut here, and it’s a pretty damn good one.

Katie Connor (DOMINIK GARCIA-LORIDO. Andy Garcia’s daughter acing it in the lead role), a young woman from the upstate NY town of Elmira, exists in a kind of limbo. Working in a dead-end job at a hotel in town, trying to work through the aftermath of being brutally raped, (an event that is implied rather than shown). She has support from her psychiatrist, (ROY VONGTAMA) and her best gal pal, Debbie (NINJA N. DEVOE, who gets the ‘sassy black friend’ role here, but does it excellently). She knows this life isn’t what she wants, but there doesn’t seem to be any way out.

Until HIM. Stereotypically handsome, hot commodity-of-the-moment Jay Cutter (BROCK KELLY from the series RAVENSWOOD) comes to Elmira to shoot a movie, and from the moment he and Katie meet, sparks fly. She’s damaged, and so is he as it turns out, and she’s able to let herself go enough to tumble into a relationship with him – as much as a girl can with a hot L.A. actor. The result of their fling is Jay inviting Katie to go to Hollywood with him. Wouldn’t any girl in her predicament say yes?

So they leave for “the Coast”. Katie is immediately swept up by the glitz and glamour…but in that very weird way that only can happen in L.A., (think STARRY EYES, but less supernatural), something’s off. About the people she meets with Jay, about the surroundings, about everything. Katie hasn’t been staying at Jay’s place long, in an old “classic” apartment building in town, when he gets called away for a three-day shoot. If you think that Katie would be a hundred percent okay staying alone in the more-than-slightly creepy confines of this eerie place, think again.

Nearly from the very moment Jay leaves, that’s when the weird shit REALLY begins. Katie thought she saw things before – someone videotaping her…strange noises and most unsettling of all, the spectre of a little girl calling herself “Grace”. But with Jay’s absence, it all starts to ramp up, and no one seems to be there to help, not even Jay’s neighbor, Father Bill O’Shea, (played by magnificently menacing character actor RAYMOND J. BARRY, most recently seen squaring off against Jessica Lange in the miniseries FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN).

The script by writers CRAIG WALENDZIAK and MATTHEW MCCARTY, seems at first to be giving off whiffs of THE SENTINEL and ROSEMARY’S BABY, but in fact, those are pretty cleverly handled misdirections. DESOLATION leans a lot closer to chillers like MY LITTLE EYE and THE DEN. If you haven’t seen either one of those, then I haven’t spoiled it for you, and even if you have, the truth of what’s happening to Katie will still take your breath away when it’s finally revealed.

David Moscow and DP DARIN MORAN have done a beautiful job here, bringing a “Dakota”-like presence to the building where Jay and Katie live. And not to mention the staging and blocking of scenes in an intelligent and clever way, that doesn’t telegraph every single detail to the audience. It doesn’t make you work too hard to figure out character motivations or how a scene is about to go from sinister to deadly, but if you pay close enough attention, the rewards are worth your time.

The cast, led by Lorido-Garcia and the great Barry, all do admirably well, but I most look forward to seeing what she does next. Which reminds me: the ending. It’s going to piss some people off, especially the little tag that will be missed if you leave too early during the credits…so DON’T. But I don’t necessarily have to have a period on the end of every sentence, when it comes to thrillers. Always leave them wanting more is a good rule to live by, and so DESOLATION does. I would be strongly interested in seeing where the storyline would go from the conclusion, if Moscow and the writers and producers are inclined to do so.

A strong three-and-a-half out of five stars for DESOLATION from me!

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Author: Samuel Glass Jr

From the first time, at age eight, when he saw little Rhoda Penmark’s evil ass get taken out by a lightning bolt, Sam Glass Jr. has been freaked out by lightning…and completely captivated by horror. The son of an Air Force communications specialist and a government worker, he’s been a writer and sometime actor, and his biggest claim to fame is getting to appear in a John Waters movie, CECIL B. DEMENTED, in 2000. His biggest passion is reviewing horror films and attending conventions, and overall favorite movie is PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Currently, he resides in the city of Las Vegas with his partner of twenty-two years.

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