January 22, 2019 The Moose Head Over the Mantel (Movie Review)
One Family. One Hundred years. Countless victims. This is the tagline across the movie poster for the new film The Moose Head Over the Mantel.
An Inappropriate Films production consisting of 6 segments, separated by year – 1881, 1904, 1922, 1945, 1966, and 1983 – The Moose Head Over the Mantel has already won countless awards at both the Macabre Faire Film Festival and Milwaukee Twisted Dreams Festival in 2018. Written by Jessi Gotta, featuring the “1945” segment directed by Gotta herself, the remaining directing team consist of Bryan Enk’s name attached to “1983,” Matthew Gray “1904,” Shannon K. Hall “1922,” Jane Rose “1881,” and Rebecca Comtois “1966.” Very much a group effort, the compelling film is now set to make it’s debut on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday, January 29, 2019 through Gravitas Ventures.
A film with a hard hitting independent film directing team, it also stars many talented actors. Beginning in what seems to be present day, when couple Lillian Hoffhienze-Bachman (Jessi Gotta: The Big Bad 2011, They Will Outlive Us All 2013) and Jay Bachman (Nat Cassidy: They Will Outlive Us All 2013, Blue Bloods series) move into her mothers house, it is house that is riddled with over 100 years of a troubled past and violence. Despite it’s past, unbeknownst to them, they decide to make a new start in the home.
Once Lilian finds some old belongings that were left behind, she becomes consumed with finding out the true secrets behind her family’s dark ancestral beginnings, terrified that what she might find will ruin her son’s future forever. The gruesome events are framed around vignettes surrounding the family’s victims in different time periods including the mystery behind the huge moose head hanging above the mantle. What mysterious lies behind it all?
As mentioned broken into segments, The Moose Head Over the Mantel feels and runs very much like an anthology film as it follows the house’s disturbing stories from generation to generation. At times feeling somewhat like a found footage film, as an audience, you are looking from the perspective of the moose which takes an otherwise ill-used filming technique in the modern day and breaths new life into it. Additionally interesting, each of these short vignettes of the house in it’s bygone days can function all on it’s own as small short pieces. And while there is a lot to be said about the story as a whole, the acting is what makes The Moose Head Over the Mantel worth the watch.
Walter Brandes (The Post 2017, Kill Al 2018) takes the acting spotlight as the violent and abusive Pa Hoffhienze. Instantly give you the creeps, he really gives it his all to make a truly convincing and horrifying character. This is not to say that other actors such as Gotta do not garner any attention as well – they really kept the story moving from current to past time periods. They all deserve mention. That in mind, most recently not to be overlooked, Timothy McCown Reynolds (Unicornland 2017, Enemy, Mime 2017) also gives a terrific performance as Pomeroy. All and all, with the acting as an objective lens to the violence that unfolds in every segment, all the characters come off in a way that is unsettling to watch, creating a raw and alarming experience for the duration The Moose Head Over the Mantel.
As a cinematic experience, it is one that is very theatrical in terms of using one space for all it’s terrible tragedies that are unleashed on its unsuspecting victims. However, it is the moose head that truly captures the horrifying tension and tones forcing you to watch such vile events imposed on to you. That is why it is the singular use of one staging area, and use of the moose as the single observer, which really heightens the fear of what is to come.
The Moose Head Over the Mantel runs off the theme of family and how certain toxic personalities can lead to a history of violence which can spiral into inexplicable crimes that can go on for generations. Though time with each passing moment, the very room where the moose head mounted is housed with such barbarousness and inhumanity. Frightening, right? It is for these reasons Cryptic Rock gives The Moose Head Over the Mantel 4.5 out of 5 stars.