Let me preface this by stating that I love the spirit of an independent film. Necessity (read: low budget) is the mother of invention, and when it comes to a film, one of two options presents itself: the need to dig in and get creative to achieve your ends with a small budget, or finding something that works and sticking with it because that’s what you can afford. In some cases, you’ll find a film with imagination and enough pluck to overcome its humble beginnings to become something you truly enjoy. The opposite end of that possibility is a film that makes the same mistake on repeat in an effort to tell its story. The latter, unfortunately, is the case of Brackish.
Brackish comes to us from director Matthew A. Peters (Three Days in the Woods, Get Outta Dodge, Star Cross’d), based on a script co-written by Peters and Jason A. Covey (Star Cross’d, Barely Coping). A Mad Angel Films production, it tells the story of Jake (Ryan Santiago, of Barely Coping and Slade Collins and the Tree of Life), a man reeling from the death of his fiancee. Jake tags along with his sister Tila (Charity Buckbee, of Those That Know Before It Happens), Tila’s boyfriend Chad (Mark Joseph Peek, of Three Days in the Woods and Half Dead), and friends Brad (Joseph Cappelli, of Romeo 3000) and Beth (Cristina DiCarlo of 4th Man Out) on a jaunt to the siblings’ empty hometown. There, they encounter creepy sheriff Merlock (Wayne W. Johnson, of Night of Something Strange, Tales of Dracula, and Bataille de Sang) while trying to get a little weekend rest and relaxation. But that’s not all — Jake finds a book which outlines a ritual to bring back the dead. Should he raise his dead beloved? And just what is the horrible cost of trying to bring back his dead fiancee?
Brackish stumbles the most with the one-two punch of its script and acting delivery. At times, the dialogue falters with the weight of its words and sentence structure, with gaps in logic most of us in real life would not make. Adding to that, Peters and Covey give us characters that reach far beyond the stereotypical rust belt and dip into dangerous film territory: they’re not just people we don’t like, they’re people we actively dislike. We’re not routing for working-class heroes; these are characters whose deaths will be actively cheered on. In some horror films, this is a positive trait — after all, it’s half of the sign-up for most horror audience members. We should want to see these folks meet grisly ends, particularly if we don’t like them. The sign of a good film strikes a balance between an unlikable, expendable character and the need to see that character die — we should be worried enough to not want to see a person suffer. We need that shred of humanity to move forward because without it, we’re left feeling nothing. If you’re not taking something away from us, it’s harder to be genuinely scared, thereby defeating the impact of a horror film. The cast does not strike this balance. The delivery of each line and facial expression is flat, which deepens the chasm between viewer and character. Couple that with the dramatic, slow movements of all actors — from cult members to vicitms — and you’re left with a feeling of deliberateness that further injures the film.
This leads to the third piece of trouble this film encounters: a limited method of execution on multiple levels. While techincal issues — such as inconsistent sound quality, poor lighting, and shaky camera work — can be overlooked, the near-constant use of music left little down time for the viewer. Infusing the music of Tribal Law, Dancing With Remains, Come Unto Me, After Earth, and Muvon, Rich Fortuna left us without the impact the songs could have brought by keeping the song use constant. Then there’s the special effects with which to contend. Peters deserves credit for not getting gory on us. However, he returns to the same method of death for each character. While I can respect budget constraints, some variation would have been a nice way to break up the monotony of the kills.
By the time I reached Brackish‘s big reveal, the investment wasn’t there. For a film about raising the dead and deals with the devil, it lacked the spirit that makes indie film so great.
Brackish (1 / 5)