The Wicked One, directed by Tory Jones, follows a group of 20-somethings on a Halloween road trip to get out to a party when they become terrorized by a masked maniac known only as The Wicked One (Jack Norman).
Wow, does this film create a bad first impression. After a brief origin story (if you can call it that) that shows the boy who would be The Wicked One committing the murder of his family that would make him a local legend. This is all fairly reasonable aside from the strange bird man that appears in the fields and then is never seen again, but I’ll just assume he’s related to this whole Wicked One thing somehow. Where it really goes off the rails is in the following scene where a couple of investigators are coming to talk with T.W.O. and are receiving a tour of the facility where he is being kept. The asylum, I guess we’ll call it that, is described as being a place where the sickest, most deranged killers are kept, yet for some reason, it looks like a hospital that hasn’t been operational since the 70s and has entire floors that are left entirely unfinished. Who gave them permission to house dangerous criminals here? As for the inmates, this might as well be Arkham Asylum because each is a more absurd caricature than the last, from John Wayne Gacy in full clown makeup to a poor man’s Harley Quinn. The good guys aren’t much better with the facility director delivering cardboard lines that feel plucked out of Birdemic and the yokel cop performances filling me with an intense dread that I was about to watch 90 minutes of the bad part of Last House on the Left.
Mercifully, that part is over rather quickly and has little to no bearing on the rest of the film. The actual film follows a completely different group whose only meaningful interaction withT.W.O. is to be murdered horribly. I’m not complaining. The group consists of Alex (Katie Stewart), her husband Adam (Dale Miller), and their friend Olivia (Sonya Delormier) as they plan to go on a Halloween road trip to attend a party hosted by local horror personality, Doctor Dementia (Russell Parks). Their plans get diverted when Katie receives a call from her troublemaker brother Trevor (Cheyenne Gordon), who finds himself stranded in a graveyard and in need of a ride. This dynamic between Alex, Adam, and Trevor is the meat of the film’s narrative.T.W.O. shows up occasionally to get in some kills, but he’s really there because I presume the promise of stomachs getting slashed open gets more VOD sales than melodrama and salty stepbrother drama, but I have to say, for what it Is, The Wicked One isn’t half bad. The acting won’t be winning any Oscars and they’re hampered by writing that comes off at times as juvenile and ham-fisted, but the cast as a whole does sell the legitimacy of their conflict.
It’s not entirely clear what the source of the dispute is between Trevor and Adam (outside of the fact he’s married to Adam’s sister) but through their portrayals you can easily fill in the blanks without the need for a big exposition dump. Alex is the likable final girl character, she clearly loves both her brother and her husband, but she’s just been pushed too far with her brother’s antics that she’s on the verge of pushing him out of her life. In a portrayal that runs counter to a lot of the jock, alpha male characters we see in these films, Adam is portrayed with a decent degree of depth, definitely still that Dawson’s Creek Good Ol’ Boy, but showing both a contempt for Trevor’s behavior as well as a desire to help Alex preserve their relationship for her sake. Trevor avoids a lot of the pitfalls of the bad boy character; sure he hangs out in graveyards, smokes cigarettes, and can be seen perennially wearing his beanie and leather jacket like he’s auditioning for the role of Colin Farrell, but through his charisma and confident demeanor I can’t say he doesn’t pull it off and comes off as a decent, if flawed person in the process. Olivia is more of a minor character, a bit bookish and mostly serving as an unlikely love interest for Trevor, she nonetheless delivers a likable character that helps to humanize and soften his character. There’s also Kris and Quinton, they exist because this film needed a higher body count.
About that, this is still a horror movie kind of, It just doesn’t devote as much screen time to that plot. Probably because there is no plot. T.W.O. kills people because that’s what he does, he killed his family and now he can’t get enough. The barebones killer doesn’t really bother me, it doesn’t stop him from being menacing any more than it did Michael Myers before we delved headfirst into his psychological profile. It’s also an eye-catching costume design, resembling Batman’s Scarecrow. The kills themselves are simple, but effective. This is a classic slasher, lots of brutal stabbing that is unfortunately limited in its effectiveness by apparent budget concerns. I have to imagine if this film had a bigger budget we would see more work done on the gore effects, but what we get instead is blocking and camerawork that does its best to hide that there’s nothing there. To its credit, the film makes very effective use of daring angles and composition to keep the action exciting within its limitations and I was engaged throughout.
The Wicked One is a character drama wrapped up in a classic slasher and both are done competently. Personally I wouldn’t have minded more focus on the murder and less on the drama, but despite some missteps The Wicked One does enough to be worthy of your late-night slasher binge consideration.
It is out now on VOD and DVD!!! People can read and buy the same day!! ITunes, Amazon, Google Play, VUDU, Vimeo.
|The Wicked One|
|Directed By:||Tory Jones|
|Written By:||Cheyenne Gordon Tory Jones|