It seems to be a rule (and rightfully so) in horror that do-it-yourself resurrections are not something that you should undertake. Victor Frankenstein found out the hard way, as did the protagonists in films like Pet Sematary, Return Of The Living Dead 3, Friday The 13th Part VII, Re-Animator and so on. Yeah, you could say that either people in these films are slow learners, or that the whole resurrection motif in horror films itself has been resurrected itself to be used in stories so many times that it’s lost all originality. Like many directors and writers before him, director Ken Winkler chose to dig the resurrection theme up for his debut feature Kiss The Abyss. Are the results any different from the previous times this has happened? Well, no. The real question is if this is still a worthwhile film.
Kiss The Abyss tells the tale of Mark (Scott Wilson) and Lesley (Nikki Moore), two newlyweds who are madly in love with each other but struggling to make ends meet, as well as dealing with crappy neighbours who fight all the time. Despite these inconveniences, Lesley is happy as an aspiring artist, as is Mark, who works as a mechanic. Unfortunately, things take a turn when Mark and Lesley’s neighbour accidentally kills Lesley in a fit of violence. Wanting to set things right, Mark and Lesley’s estranged father Harold (James Mathers) conspire to bring Lesley back from the dead. The duo take a trip out into the desert to meet up with a mysterious man named Gus (Douglas Bennett), who has a knack for raising the dead. They succeed in bringing Lesley back to life, however Lesley isn’t quite the same.
Rather than take the usual route for revealing the story, Winkler starts the film off with Mark, Harold and Gus in the desert, while using flashbacks to explain the story up to that point. This also allows Winkler the opportunity to develop the characters and their relationships, which goes a long way when you’re dealing with a story that involves the death of a loved one. This of course helps to sell the eventual fallout that happens with Lesley, and Mark’s subsequent attempt to deal with things. In other words, love ruins everything. Of course, story means nothing if your actors don’t buy in and act the part. Fortunately, the performances by everyone involved keep things together. Moore and Wilson have great chemistry together, and special mention goes to Bennett for channeling his loopy side. The guy plays it up and it works, spitting out one-liners that had me grinning at almost everything that came out of his mouth. Nice job!
On the technical side of things, Winkler has a great eye behind the camera, showing off some great cinematography and polished visuals. Choosing to have thing like the desert scenes washed out as if everyone’s baking under the sun was a nice touch, as was filming certain basement scenes with a blue filter. This isn’t a fun romp through the woods, after all. Topping things off are the makeup effects, particularly for Lesley as her condition deteriorates, as well as the effects for the Angel. I’ll leave that for you to find out.
On the negative side of things, despite some twists, the film is still using the same old story of “don’t screw around with bringing back the dead” narrative. It’s presented in a unique way, but you can guess what happens once things get hairy. In addition, the film does lag a bit in the middle, only to pick it back up for the finale, which is also kind of predictable. The real noticeable fault comes in the form of the ADR. It’s a necessary evil, sometimes, but usually can be worked out. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. When the actor’s tone of voice doesn’t match up with the expression on his face, or the words don’t match up with the lips, you have a problem. It’s not everywhere in this film, but when it does occur, it obviously takes the fun out of watching it.
In spite of the glaring issue of dubbing, Kiss The Abyss is a rather well-produced indie film. The talent behind the camera and in front help to sell a story, that while derivative, is still pretty good. Add to that some great atmosphere and surprising makeup effects, Kiss The Abyss deserves a viewing, if only to see Bennett going off the rails.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the film looks very good for a low budget affair. As mentioned above, Winkler chose a variety of ways to film certain scenes, and the transfer definitely reflects that. The desert scenes, while washed out, maintain good, crisp detail with a hint of film grain. The darker scenes do tend to suffer from being overly noisy and lack detail in spots, but given the low budget nature, it’s still quite good.
As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 track, things fare quite the same, despite the obvious post-production dubbing in places. Dialogue is crisp and clear, ambient effects are appropriately leveled, directional sound effects are used appropriately, and there’s no distortion.
A word of advice guys: don’t put a hard rock song on the Main Menu and in the Setup like this one, especially when it’s loud enough that you have to scramble for the remote every time you go back to turn off the commentary.
The sole extra included is an audio commentary with director Ken Winkler and producer Eric Rucker. The duo spend the time talking the usual talk of behind the scenes and makings of the film, dropping trivia here and there, all the while keeping things amiable. It’s an informative track that serves as a great piece for repeat viewings.
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