September 6, 2019 Artik (Movie Review)
Tom Botchi made his name directing short films like the award-winning 11 Minutes from 2014. Now he is making his feature-length debut with Artik, a film he has been quite hands-on with. On top of directing, he is also credited as producer, writer, and editor amongst other roles. Making its debut at the GenreBlast Film Festival, it will receive a limited theatrical release on September 6th, 2019. Otherwise, Epic Pictures and DREAD will be bringing the film to a wider audience through Blu-Ray & VOD platforms from September 10th onward. So, is it worth catching, or will it make one wish they were one of Artik’s victims?
It tells the story of the titular Artik (Jerry G. Angelo: American Warfighter 2018, Better Call Saul series), a comic-obsessed serial killer who has been teaching his son Adam (Gavin White: The Reunion 2018, Black-ish series) how to get away with murder. All seems dandy until Adam befriends Holton (Chase Williamson: John Dies at the End 2012, The Guest 2014), a mysterious man who threatens to expose Artik for who he is.
Surprisingly, for a film about a serial killer and his son, it does not start off with sunshine and rainbows. Joking aside, this is not an ironic, jokey take on things a la 2017’s Tragedy Girls. The deaths are not even a tour-de-force of blood and body parts neither. Not that it is for the squeamish either. It is still bloody and gruesome, just in a more reasonable way. Like something that happens to people if they met the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time. Try not to have nightmares.
Still, Artik leans more on its drama than its horror, with Adam caught between his family and his newfound friend. It is almost a familiar tale, as other films and even sitcoms have had their takes on the ‘family vs friends’ angle. Only they usually involved less deaths-by-chisel. It is a battle of wills over Adam, with Artik wanting him to follow his footsteps, and Holton trying to get him out of it.
One could call them the equivalent of the devil and the angel on the shoulders gimmick, only each character is not 100% dark or pure. Artik and his partner Flin (Lauren Ashley Carter: Premium Rush 2013, Imitation Girl 2017) are abusive and neglectful, but in a weird, nurturing way. Like they are trying to cultivate Adam’s darkness. While Holton is trying to offer him a way out because he had his own dark past to overcome.
It is a pretty interesting story, made more so by some good performances. Angelo’s Artik and his comic obsession is intriguing in that, rather than trying to be a hero or villain, he is more of a Charles Manson-type. His interest is in the medium than its characters, and his drawings of himself killing faceless victims reveals much about him. Williamson’s Holton is more traditionally heroic by comparison, throwing Artik’s talk back in his face. White’s Adam is largely silent throughout the film, with just a few lines. Nevertheless, he expresses a lot through his physical performance – whether it is the ravenous way he finishes off some food, or his nervous shakes when he takes a stand.
So, Artik offers good acting, a good story with plenty of turns, and it is solidly put together too. There is a little shaky-cam during the action scenes, though it aids them rather distracting from them. The pacing is smooth too, building up to its climax, which is well worth the journey. If one were to nit-pick, the Pop-Punk ending credits sequence sticks out like a sore film. Although that is after the main film is over, so it does not harm it overall. If one is after Horror-Drama, Artik should see them through. Thus, for these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.