Monday, June 2, 2008

Quench (2007)

Brimming with angst and a heavy, somber tone, Quench tells the tale of Derik (Bo Barrett), who hitchhikes to Indiana after an unspecified tragedy in his life to see his best friend Jason (Ben Schmitt). Though he hasn’t spoken to his friend in three years, Derik is expecting some sort of comfort and deep understanding from Jason. Problem is, Jason is a changed man, both in the way he dresses and the way he acts. He belongs to a close-knit group called “the family” that he excludes Derik from and doesn’t have time to spend with his old friend. Derik eventually comes to the conclusion that Jason is hiding something from him. After puttering around Jason and his girlfriend Veronica’s (Samantha Eileen DeTurk) house for a few weeks, Derik finally becomes fed up and leaves…but he runs into one of Jason and Veronica’s friends, Gina (Mia Moretti) who’s just as lonely and lost as he is. She convinces him to join their “family,” but Derik has his own secrets to hide.

Quench has a lot going for it and just as many things against it, but I must warn readers that this isn’t a straightforward horror movie. It’s more of a slow-burning character study of a man who has lost everything…but has much more to lose. Though it does feature some nudity and blood, most mainstream horror fans will be turned off by the slow, brooding pace of this low-budget flick.

The production values themselves are stunning, especially with such a low budget (reportedly in the $40,000 range). Shot in the Midwest in the autumn, the color palate is full of rich reds, bright oranges, deep blues and bleached yellows. The direction, by Zack Parker, is impressive considering this is only his second low-budget film. The shots are tight, crisp and straightforward with no annoying amateur “shake.” As a director, Parker looks like he will go far…I just wish he had better material to work with.

See, the actual story aspect of the film, co-written by Parker and Brandon Owens, is a little weak. I understand the concept of a man returning to seek acceptance and comfort from an old friend, but people change and the most annoying part was watching the sullen Derik stubbornly refuse the fact that Jason wasn’t the same person he used to know. Who would masochistically stick around while their former best friend ditches them time and time again, even though they are staying as a guest at his house? Also, the “family” aspect of the film seemed pretty stereotypical and trite. Is anyone really shocked by people that drink their own blood anymore? I mean, really? The whole stereotypical “goth” crowd that made up the “family” was also mundane and tired. Does that mean that anyone who dresses in black and wears heavy eyeliner is a sanguinarian? I think not…

The story builds slowly (a bit too slowly) and doesn’t cover a lot besides Derik moping around, looking dejected. It’s not until the last few scenes where a curveball is thrown, but by then it’s a little too late. The story failed to carry much tension or suspense, reveling in its high school dramatics more than anything else, which is a pity considering the high-caliber direction and acting.

Yes, the acting was surprisingly decent for a low-budget flick. While I found the character of Derik to be annoying and unlikable (now that I think about it, most of the characters were unlikable), Bo Barrett did a commendable job playing the sad character. Other characters, including Ben Schmitt as Jason, did a decent job as well, while others, like Samantha Eileen DeTurk as Veronica, were a bit wooden. The absolute stand-out of the cast was Mia Moretti as Gina. She did an excellent job of playing cute and seductive yet horribly lonely.

Quench is definitely not a film for everyone in the horror crowd. It’s slow pace and un-horrifyingly story will turn many off, but it may be worth watching for Zack Parker’s impressive direction and overall good performances. While it bills itself as a “gothic tragedy,” it carries none of the traditionally gothic atmosphere…just a bunch of actors dressed in fetish and bondage clothes.

Proceed with caution with this one…Quench won’t satisfy your thirst for horror unless you are looking for a downbeat, somber drama.

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