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[BD Review] ‘Exhumed’ Disturbs and Fascinates Amongst Striking Visuals

Sometimes you just don’t feel like reviewing.

I’m not saying that to slight Exhumed. It’s just that some days you’d just rather turn your critic brain off and just watch a film. Sort of like how some artists will end up spending a day doodling rather than working on commissions. Maybe it’s a shirking of one’s duty, but dammit, I’m human. Coincidentally, so are the people in Exhumed (how’s that for a transition?). Okay, so the people may or may not be all there, but that means for an exciting time, right?

Exhumed revolves around the last remnants of a bizarre, cultish “family”. The matriarch of the family, known as The Governess, oversees the clan with an iron fist despite her increasingly bizarre behavior. She’s both helped and hindered by The Butler as they try to create some semblance of a life in their current predicament with the rest of their odd group. The family distrusts the outside world, leaving their home only when forced to, and the rest of the time blocking all sunlight from entering the house. Despite their isolation, the family find themselves desperate to grow their numbers. The chance to do so happens when a college student named Chris answers the family’s ad for a room for rent. Yet after Chris’ arrival, events are set in motion that signal the end of family.

Given the small cast and the isolated surroundings, it’s no surprise that this is a character-driven film. As such, the performances by all involved really stand out, with two in particular. Genre veteran Debbie Rochon is spot-on as The Governess. Rochon portrays the Governess as a vindictive, calculating madwoman who would do anything to keep the family under her control, while at the same time showing a tortured soul whose grip on sanity and external control is on the wane. Competing with Rochon is Michael Thurber, who plays The Butler. Thurber displays similar intensity and despair to Rochon, while also providing comic relief. Don’t get the wrong impression, though. The Butler is just as cold and vindictive as The Governess.

The other notable that really sells the film is Griffin’s decision to shoot the film in black and white. The result is very stark and beautiful cinematography that echoes the look of Hammer Films. In contrast, flashbacks are in colour. Given that up until those points all we’ve seen is black and white, the sudden transition to colour if only for a few seconds is quite the impact. Wrapping things up is the music, which is a mix of friendly melodies and ambient sounds that both heighten tension as well as draw you in. Fantastic stuff!

The complaints I have for this film are not necessarily bad, but pointing out the film’s lack of accessibility. The film is a slow burn, which will obviously limit the appeal. Hampering this even more is the fact that this is a character-driven film, which further alienates viewers who are in the mood for more bloodshed and violence. That’s not to say that Exhumed is devoid of that, but it’s not what drives the film, which won’t be for every horror fan.

So after saying that I didn’t feel like reviewing a film on this particular day, Exhumed comes along and gets me going. Griffin sucked me in with some great performances and a slow-burning progression that reminded me of a lot of the great character-driven horror films in the past that I’ve enjoyed. While those same qualities may end up turning a lot of fans away, for those who enjoy the patience of an unfolding story coupled with great characters, Exhumed is worth digging up.

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, Exhumed‘s presentation is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have some good detail and contrast throughout, but it’s all marred by serious cases of banding and flickering that constantly pop up, making things very distracting, especially in tracking shots. This doesn’t occur in the colour shots, but those are a minority in this film. I’d assume that it’s the fault of the compression, as there’s also some instances of slight haloing. It’s a shame, since without those issues, this would be a good-looking transfer.

The film’s Dolby Digital 2.0 track is unfortunately also lacking. Despite it being free of any distortion, the audio levels leave you having to crank up the volume to even hear what’s going on. Once you do, the dialogue-driven audio is clear, and the sparse yet haunting ambient soundtrack is fairly engaging. Nevertheless, the problems with the presentation are a disappointment, considering the film is so much better than what’s here.

For starters, we have two audio commentaries. The first features director Richard Griffin and writer Guy Benoit. Rather than being scene specific, the duo talk at length about the overall production. Griffin and Benoit also drop tidbits about filming, including pointing out the enthusiasm from everyone involved and how there was a danger of that fun being carried over into the morose tone of the film. The two show a genuine interest in the film, and sport great chemistry while talking. A great info track.

The other commentary track features Griffin again, with star Michael Thurber and producer Kristin Kayala. As you can guess, this one is more scene specifc than the other commentary. The group overlaps on some information from the other commentary, but overall they have a great time discussing scenes, joking about, and showing just how much fun it was shooting the film.

Also included is a 47-minute behind the scenes featurette entitled “There Are No Easy Shots” – The Making Of Exhumed. Consisting of footage shot over the ten days that the cast and crew were in the house, the entire featurette was shot via handheld by Griffin. The whole thing presents a real family dynamic between everyone involved. As you can guess, everyone is having a blast doing things from costume design to lighting to even making breakfast. There’s little in the way of narration, but you can easily figure out what’s going on. It’s a great companion piece to the film, although part of me would’ve liked to have seen things like post-production and editing. Oh well.

Finishing things off are a collection of trailers for other Wild Eye releases, as well as Exhumed‘s trailer.



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