A young, aspiring actor attempts suicide but lives, and the guilt from that and other events in his past manifests itself in a terrifying way.
Whoa. VINDICATION isn't messing around. Bart Mastronardi's debut feature as director is a meditation on guilt and how it absolutely consumes the film's main character, Nicholas (Keith Fraser). Mastronardi takes a very artful approach to the storytelling, and has created something that, while flawed, is disturbing and effective at times. Now, when I say that it's more of an art film, that doesn't mean it doesn't deliver buckets of blood and viscera. I had plenty of problems with VINDICATION. But it's certainly a ballsy exercise in psychological horror and damn if it didn't keep me pretty hooked.
Nicholas is a deeply wounded character, and Fraser handles the role well. Early on, Nicholas puts in a visit to his father (Jerry Murdock), an absolutely loathsome creature (probably a little too one-dimensional in that respect) who clearly blames his son for the death of his wife, who didn't survive childbirth. Obviously the young man is going down a very dark road, doing the "starving artist" routine, and this horrible encounter with his dad prompts Nicholas to get a little close with a razor blade in his bathtub. Unfortunately, the character's descent into psychosis starts too quickly, and we don't have a clear picture of everything that led to this point, although more clues are revealed as the film goes on.
Writer/director/cinematographer/producer Mastronardi is working on a limited budget, and the picture quality suffers at times. Just the same, he employs some neat tricks behind the camera, and layers on heavy symbolism (some of it hits the right note, some of it is too obvious). Mastronardi also favors close-ups a bit too much – pulling the camera back would have improved some of the scenes here - but he still clearly has many strengths as a filmmaker. VINDICATION is absolutely horrific at times, and Mastronardi deserves credit for sticking to his guns.
There’s more I could gripe about – some characters appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. The film stays disappointingly one-note as it nears the finish, but the one note that it does hit is gruesomely effective. As an exploration of how guilt and pain can turn us into an absolute monster, VINDICATION works, and I will look for this promising filmmaker’s name in the future.
A true horror film deals with human nature, and that is what VINDICATION is all about. I admired it for its serious approach to the subject matter, and gorehounds will certainly find much to enjoy as well.