When I watch a film for the first time, not knowing what to expect, the thing I really want the most is to be surprised and discover something fantastic. This is what happened when I watched The Ugly, what a gem this turned out to be. This is a strange one film, it is about a serial killer (Simon played by Paolo Rotondo) who has spent the last six years in a psychiatric facility, requests to be interviewed by a media hungry psychologist (Karen Schumaker played by Rebecca Hobbs). His past and murders are revealed through flashbacks, but not everything is what it seems. The more Karen finds out about things from Simon, the stranger things begin to get.
Writer/Director Scott Reynolds blew me away with this film, I don’t think I have seen a serial killer film quite like this. This certainly ranks up there as one of the best ones (I still think that Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer is possibly the best and most disturbing one), that I have ever seen. This is thanks to a fantastic script, great direction, some great style (and substance), along with strong performances. Straight away this film feels really strange, the psychiatric facility is one of the strangest I have seen in film. The orderly’s are strange and they look like they deserve to be locked up along side Simon, in comparison he seems like the normal one. These guys would give the Terminator 2 orderly’s a run for their money, believe me. The man who runs the place is no better, he is one strange creature, and he just seems to get stranger each time he’s on screen. Dr. Schumaker is very out of place, and rightfully so, she is basically the only normal person there. Primarily the film is set inside the facility, but we leave it when Simon talks about his past and we see events through flashbacks. The actual room they are in is very unsettling, which really adds to the atmosphere of the film. It is uncomfortable, I questioned Simon’s motive’s through-out the film, he seemed so normal but there is always more then meets the eye.
I loved the way the film goes back and forth with the flashbacks, setting them up while still in the room, having Karen appear as we see the flashback’s. I thought this technique was great, and a really good storytelling device. Simon seems to have that predictable past, mother issues going back to when he was very young (if that was my mother I’d have issues as well), abusive and controlling, we see Simon didn’t have much freedom at all. These are very sad and confronting scenes, Jennifer Ward-Lealand was quite astonishing as Evenly, a truly frightening figure. I think her character would get along great with Mary from the film Precious, they are about on the same level. Simon’s only friend as a child was Julie (played here by Beth Allen), they seem to have a connection but Evelyn put’s a stop to that in a disgusting scene. These two characters are very important to the story, as they do relate to Simon’s murders and you’ll see why. These characters and events are important to the story, we do see Simon with his victims, but they aren’t as prominent. The film does show some of the killings and I do believe the colour of the blood is important as well, which you’ll see why at the very end (which I wont spoil). An interesting aspect as well is ‘The Ugly’ and ‘The Visitors’ which Simon blames (uses as an excuse) for the murders he has committed, we see Simon when looking at his own reflection has a scarred face. I felt these things were very important to the story, there are clues as to what is going on scattered through out.
Paolo Rotondo was not what I expected, as Simon for the most part he seems like a quiet man. He isn’t what you’d expect this serial killer to look and act like, but that is the point. It is who you least suspect, and something that wouldn’t make him a suspect. This is what in the end does make him a scary character, watching him you know he’s a cold blooded killer, yet he makes you feel such sympathy for him. I thought Rotondo was fantastic in the role, he played everything so perfectly, it was hard for me to believe this was the same actor that was unlucky in love in ‘Stickmen’. Vanessa Byrnes who played the grown up Julie was very good, a great connection between the two actors existed here. The romantic element in this film really floored me, because I knew exactly where it was headed. Rebecca Hobbs was quite convincing as Karen, she hit all the right notes and her reactions seemed all very natural with the situation. The right chemistry existed between Rotondo and Hobbs, while it might not have been as amazing as say Hannibal and Clarice, it certainly was right up there.
There are other elements at play with this film, and I can’t really delve into them. I already feel I have said too much about this film, this is an intricate film, and a very smart one at that. I will definitely need to watch it again, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I watched it. The Ugly is something that all horror fans should watch, I think this one is in a league of it’s own. I really didn’t think I would have liked it as much as I do, The Ugly now has a place as one of my favourites. Do yourself a favour and track this down, I can’t imagine you’d be disappointed.
The Ugly was part of my Horror Films For October, you can find the entire list here.