A Ferocious Bear of a Horror Movie
Artik, The new multi-award-winning mega-hit horror movie by writer-director, Tom Botchii, is indeed an instant Horror classic by every sense of the word. From the first moment of sound in the darkness, the low pitched hum in the tone of “warning” on a dull grey screen underscoring the word “DREAD” which appears in edgy cracked letters, to the sound increasing to an almost ear-piercing simulation of an irregular heartbeat, You anticipate you are in for a really good scary movie. But at 60 seconds into the film when you are introduced to a remote farm with one of its gardens having several rows of planted humans, their heads above ground, wrapped with care in black plastic bags, all doubt begins to wane. You are also simultaneously introduced to what appears to be their caregiver and executioner, our new archetype of evil, ARTIK, played masterfully by, Jerry G Angelo ( American Warfighter, All Rise, Better Call Saul ), whose presence exudes a mixture of calm determined yet deadly power. You now realize you are indeed in for one heck of a ride.
Botchii has assembled quite a team to bring his classic tale of horror. On the surface we see Artik, a disturbed man-child caught in his delusional understanding of the superhero comic book world. He has collected and believed in powerful supermen and their purity throughout his life. But now we find him, sometime later, having realized the books may be built on lies. Consequently, he has set out to find a pure man, break him down, destroy him in fact, and see if he can be rebuilt and rise into a super one. He has a son, Adam, played smartly by extremely talented, Gavin White (The Reunion, Blackish), who Artik is grooming to become a killer and follow in his footsteps. Adam will assist Artik in the search for the pure one. Artik’s wife, Flin Brays, played deliciously and manipulatively evil by, Lauren Asley Carter (Premium Rush), who’s co-dependent yet sustains passive-aggressive control in Artik’s irrational world where she can thrive by using whatever means she can to keep him within her grasp to better her state in life. She keeps a clean house much of it covered in plastic – pure. Together they somehow own and run this haggard farm — harvesting sunflowers for the market. They’ve adopted or procured orphaned or homeless boys to do the work and keep them hold up in a barn where they’re literally treated like pet dogs save for one they keep as their own, Adam, often called, Boy. Another barn is Artik’s work shed which is the cesspool soup of alchemy where he holds and tortures his captives in the search for the pure superhero and here young Adam is learning the trade quickly.
It has always been and still remains true that the scariest of monsters are the ones that turn out to be us; human beings. When we see a mad-man or woman out of control – dead set out to destroy and wreak havoc, it somehow never fails to terrify us. Perhaps because we realize just how far we ourselves might go if driven to what potentially lives deep within us.
There normally is no rhyme or reason behind the insanity of why the mind is so twisted into the darkness within most monsters created for horror movies. But whatever the ingredient is in the creation of gut-wrenching horror films such as, “The Hills Have Eyes”, “Chain Saw Massacre”, or “Saw”, they all have an undeniable human element whose condition we understand. That common communication contributes to their becoming long-standing fan favorites for decades. Archetypical human monsters such as, Jason, Freddy, Michael, or even better, the father and son in the lesser-known horror film, “Frailty”, are leading psychological thrillers that do try and explain within the narrative, how their monsters sick or twisted mind was pushed to the limit and created.
Well, add Artik to the list. The new archetypical monster on the scene. Angelo’s performance brings such a primal quality of deeply misunderstood humanity. From the moment you see him, the mixtures of kindness and power even virtue, versus anger rage, and near madness which permeates the very atmosphere that surrounds him. We are captivated by his presence, by his ancient look of medieval ancestry, his classic swagger resembling the power of Vikings, and his strong nordic or nomadic features. His face, speech, eyes, and spirit speak in concert as if transported from an ancient period. His long mane is as if warn in honor of fellow elder indigenous tribal warriors.
It must be noted that although he is powerful, his right arm is lame, crippled… perhaps form birth. However, when he wears his leather armor arm piece he is no longer lame but complete and powerful.
We are afraid of his twisted reasoning – of his knowledge of justified revenge for the human misdeeds throughout the decades, thus his inner resolve that fuels the power to defeat or destroy because of it. We can instantly think of a thousand reasons why this man might have flipped out and sought revenge even though misguided in method, for we know he has been wronged.
Here may be just where our director, Botchii, wants us to live. Here the fear of this realization is palpable. Here is where the alchemy of man’s age-old acts of fear, guilt, retribution, and untruths, may be confronted and pushed to ultimate terror; perhaps even change – to responsibility, acknowledgment, and evolution to eventual awareness — purity. Artik’s method, however, is where the true horror lies; especially today. And perhaps why Artik the movie, is so relevant.
Botchii has made fun sport of horror. Some may say this surface story is thin or usual in its plot points, special effects, loud noises; all cliche. But if one looks deeper into the fine work within the layers of the text and the subtext of the actors, esp the two leads, Angelo (Artik) and The illuminating Chase Williamson ( John Dies In The End) who plays Holton, you find very relevant age-old, as well as, current real-life heroes and horrors being dealt with melded neatly throughout this romp of what appears at first to be just a “scary movie”. Not unlike those lessons in the aforementioned films, “Saw” or “Frailty”, Botchii filters in deep-seated warnings, lessons, questions, even possible solutions to very real issues all while entertaining us with a good old fashioned thrilling and scary, horror movie.
Without having to add a spoiler alert it must be said that there are four characters who are instrumental to the telling of this tale of them, Holton is perhaps the other favorite. Holton represents hope and the willingness to discover; to become. Holton, who is also broken through no fault of his own, is also on the mend and may just be who is able to rise. Here again is where all roads lead back to the boy, Adam. Among the star ensemble playing a pivotal role is Kar, the friend to Holton, played by brave and fearless, Matt Mercer (Contracted). All four of the adults in their own way may be searching for purity. But Adam, the child, is closest to purity. The question is… Well, you will have to watch the movie to find that out.
Every technical aspect of Artik is perfect and noteworthy. The number one standout clearly is the score, Cory Wallace, and the sound, Stefan Chakerian, Josh Eckberg. Compelling work also from cinematographer, Marton Moody, followed by extremely effective costumes, key makeup and special makeup effects, Roxy Traino and Michelle L Bolin, nerve jarring spot-on editing, Tom Botchii and Skowronski, terrific production design by, Christopher Scott, keen-eyed casting by, Angelique Midthunder , and skin-crawling Special effects, and Visual effects, Giuseppe Motta.
and produced By, Jerry G Angelo, Kodi Saint Angelo, Tom Botchii Skowronski, and Erik H. Bernard
The Artik team has made pitch-perfect harmony. It is no wonder the film has swept the indie festival awards as best picture, best director, and best actor. It is a nerve- prickling, jaw-dropping, wide-eyed – forehead-wrinkling, horror ride. At times you will find your mouth agape and quite a bit jittery at Angelo’s Mansonesque smiley eyes glare. Artik will make your skin crawl. While the special effects are supremely done, perhaps one virtual effect in the third act might have been omitted. Unless of course, that jarring effect was perhaps the director’s plan as its content is a major topic of today’s society; especially when children are involved.
Artik’s overall effect and layered inclusion of so many well-played observations are excellently executed. You will watch Artik again and again and find new and exciting points of view and your skins guaranteed to crawl every time.
Watch ARTIK tonight on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and other streaming platforms. Don’t sleep on this New Horror Classic! And if you buy it you will save time on renting.