When independent movies get it right, man do they get it right. ‘MARCUS’ is the latest entry into the indie horror genre, and this one really packs a punch. If you are a fan of holiday themed horror films, particularly Christmas, well… you have one big reason to be happy. Although the events do take place at Christmas time, that is really not that important to the story. What is important is the fact that Marcus is the dinner guest from hell.
Opening scenes show Marcus asking a few probing questions about his “girlfriends” family. His tone becomes increasingly hostile towards her, until we reveal a savagely beaten and bound woman in a bath tub. This is where the real fun begins.
Guests begin to show up to this woman’s apartment and Marcus greets them in a rather menacing way. He says that he is the woman’s boyfriend and she has asked him to keep the guests entertained until she arrives. Marcus is greeted with some confusion and hostility by her friends and family, and quite understandably. None of them have met or ever heard of this new boyfriend, and here he is telling everyone what to do. As time progresses the guests become more and wearier of Marcus, and his extremely aggressive attitude. It becomes apparent that Marcus has something to hide, but he is better than good at hiding it. Marcus is as good a spinster as Carl Rove, but he has the killer instincts of Jeffrey Dahmer. He is clearly the alpha male in the room and he doesn’t feel like taking shit from anybody.
The brilliance of this film is really in its’ simplicity. The entire film is dialogue driven, and takes place in a small apartment. This forces the film to be moved along by the performances of the actors, which can make or break a film. Admittedly there were some stilted performances, but nothing to be overly critical of. At times some of the characters reactions to certain situations seemed less than believable, but who’s to say how you’d really act in a set situation. The role of Marcus is played by newcomer Ross Kurt, and he really pulls it off. He is tall, menacing, and charming at the same time. He can stare you in the eyes as if he is going to kill you, only to con you into believing whatever story he’s spinning. He makes this character believable.
The climax of this film leaves a lot of room for thought, which I applaud. Too many times, films want to wrap up the story so the audience can leave the film and have a sense of closure. ‘MARCUS’ wants to leave that open. It raises a lot of questions at the end which will have you and your friends talking. Some will agree with the character of Marcus, some will not. I personally enjoy it when the line is blurry. The fact that you are thinking about it is pay-off enough.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that ‘MARCUS’ is a run-of-the-mill thriller, because it has a lot of original things to show you. It enters horror territory rapidly, and with a ferocious intensity. The audience never really knows what to expect. Although we have more knowledge than the rest of the dinner guests, we are never fully certain of what is going on. The ending also leaves room for interpretation, but it is clearly more a horror film than a thriller at that point. Add a score of X-Mas tunes to that, and it makes the events unfolding even more sinister.
Many independent horror films start off great and get lost along the way. I have been let down more times than I would like to admit in that regard, but ‘MARCUS’ does not fall into that trap. It is well crafted story telling, mixed with just the right amount of believable violence, so that it comes off as being realistic.