Dir: Cezil Reed, Lydelle Jackson
Starring: John Halas, Alana Jackler, Lynnette Gaza
THE TAKING wins the award for most bizarre film I have seen all year, and that’s saying something coming from me. This is an experience from start to finish, an experience in existentialism in the form of horror. This may not be on the level of say Terrance Malick (is anyone?), but it is a very fair effort for a small budget horror film. For the entire run time I felt like I was watching a waking nightmare, its imagery is disturbing at times, and the way the film is shot and presented really adds to that nightmare feel. With the still shots and bizarre sounds, it felt very unnerving at times.
Plot wise this is a very minimalist film, two strangers awaken after being abducted by a family from the backwoods, realising they are being held as sacrifices. It honestly is that simple on the surface, but there is a lot more at play here. Our two main characters are Carl (John Halas) and Jade (Alana Jackler), strangers to each other but sharing one thing in common, their need for revenge. Carl was wronged by his girlfriend, and Jade’s daughter was killed. This revenge is consuming them, and it is why they believed they are to be sacrificed. The family that abducted them is a mystery, and their ‘God’ is a true enigma that we can’t even imagine.
For the first thirty minutes this film mostly has no dialogue, relying heavily on its visuals to tell the story. If one pays attention, the clues are there and you can piece the puzzle together. We also have this very distorted voice-over (from the ‘God’), which is subtitled; the clues are also there. While this can be difficult to watch, it is important to really take in what there is. This is not simply a film about a weird family who abducts people; it is about the nightmare of revenge. Just the thought of the act is what can tear a person to pieces; this is shown through the strange hallucinations that our characters go through. The revenge they seek is tearing them up inside, and they cannot let go of that feeling.
I felt that our filmmakers used revenge as the metaphor here, and in a way I don’t think I have seen used before. The nightmare images are fuelled by revenge; it’s ugly, just like the act of revenge is. A very clever piece that I really appreciated. The make up FX are outstanding, and for a small budget I really must give them props for making it all very realistic. The blood was especially well done; at times I could have sworn it was real, very authentic. It is a nice looking film for as ugly as the nightmares are, it is very vibrant and framed extremely well. The filmmakers certainly had a grasp for the technical side of things, and this looked much beyond its budget.
The performances are solid; our leads do a very good job. It is the family who do seem campy, but without much dialogue and their bizarre looks I don’t see how they could have been anything else. The editing while very unique can be a bit much to take at times. This is not really a straightforward film so I appreciate the efforts taken to make it stand out from the pack. It can be a muddled mess at times, but for a feature length debut feature from writers/directors Cezil Reed and Lydelle Jackson it is a very solid effort. I do hope the pair get to work on another film, things can only get better for them after this experience.
The Australian DVD
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill care of Accent Film Entertainment for the copy.