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Artik

Director: Tom Botchii Skowronski

Writer: Tom Botchii Skowronski

Starring: Chase Williamson, Lauren Ashley Carter, Jerry G. Angelo and Matt Mercer


A comic book obsessed serial killer teaches his son how to get away with a series of brutal murders until the boy befriends a mysterious man who threatens to expose everything.


Initial Reaction


C. Artik is violent, jarring, punk rock, philosophical, and comes in at 70mins… What’s not to love? On paper it’s exactly my kind of movie.


The movie offers great effects and possibly Chase Williamson’s best performance to date. I found myself invested in where the story was taking us, while a serial killer tries to find someone he deems “pure of heart.”


This major issue is traced back to the killer’s motivation or the movie’s theme. Williamson’s character, who one would call “straight edge” and “pure,” potentially fits the killer’s ideal candidate. And when Williamson is captured and his purity is being put to the test, you half expect it to enter into the realm of Martyrs territory. Truly show this battle between good and evil in its raw form. However, this concept and world-building that has been established does not do well in the 70 minute time frame. This is one of the few cases where we needed another 20 minutes to establish more. There could be an argument for ambiguity but there’s a difference between things left ambiguous and plot holes… Artik suffers slightly from the latter.


Why does this couple keep child prisoners? Besides the main boy, why are these other children even necessary to the plot or the antagonist’s mission? Besides superheroes representing pure forms of good, is the comic-obsession needed to move the plot forward? Because we lose it by the end.  We are left with a lot of elements that could be expanded upon. The story doesn’t feel whole, rather a movie that was longer but cut down to fit a designated time frame, yet they forgot to simplify the story.


The other major concern that could connect with the hypothesis above is the editing feels very choppy. This could be argued that it’s because it’s a serial killer movie with punk rock vibes but as we’ve established the two battling characters are both based on a mindset of clarity. So is the ending a juxtaposition of that? That could be cool but it doesn’t feel purposeful.


Really it’s unique and enjoyable, with many moments to put you on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately any of my criticism comes down to a lack of focus in the writing or editing, which could take this movie from a fun watch to something spectacular.


J. Pretty simple stuff… a guy kills people and is grooming his son to take over the serial killing mantle?  I think.  I’m actually not sure if this is correct because for some reason, the film was confusing.  In the beginning, the kid beats his head against a pole to kill an insect and I kinda felt like doing the same thing.  Why is this happening?  I have no idea.  The serial killer and his wife apparently kidnap children too, although I’m also not sure if this is correct.  Why does the guy love comics so much?  I have no idea.  What does that have to do with anything?  I have no idea.  Somehow, someone got Lauren Ashley Carter, Matt Mercer and Chase Williamson to agree to be in this so that was a solid move.  I’ve man crushed all over Chase Williamson since John Dies At The End and he’s the best part of this film.  There’s some pretty tense moments when the comic loving serial killer does his sadistic shit, especially the scene involving poor Matt Mercer.  There is also gore aplenty and lots of karo syrup.  I actually thought the score was pretty great too and helped to ratchet up the intensity in moments where it was used.  For some reason, this 77 minute film was not very clear to me as far as what and why many of the events in the story were happening but with that runtime, I’d forgive just about anything. 


K.  Ah, the heartwarming tale of a serial killer in training.  The first thing that happens in the movie is the boy headbutts a beetle approximately 20 times (I watched the scene a second time to get an accurate headbutt count).  That was one of the highlights. 


There’s a good grungy, backwoods atmosphere to the film and good gore effects, though there’s only a few instances where they’re used.  The performances are good throughout, except for Jerry G. Angelo as the serial killer/patriarch.  He’s not really suited to carry a film, most of the time it sounds like he’s reading his dialogue from cue cards while trying to do a Bane impression.


Even with the short running time there’s a fair amount of lingering on drawings and moments which slow things up a bit, but I’d guess that’s because there’s not too much in the way of plot.  The good guy tries to save the boy from his serial killer dad, that’s it.


Response


C.Artik follows an issue that’s popped up with a couple of movies we’ve reviewed recently. It’s in that purgatory of there’s a lot of ideas that go nowhere and would work if they were developed but if you cut all those ideas then you’d have a short film. I know the common comment on this critique is “well I wanted to leave stuff ambiguous.” Right. Kubrick’s The Shining, the work of David Lynch are perfect examples of ambiguity done right. The “ambiguity” in this movie are plot holes and lack of development.


That doesn’t mean I didn’t like it though. I think it’s a solid thriller with some great kills. I agree with Kyle that for it being only 70 minutes, the first half feels a lot longer. Once it gets going though, it had me hooked. And as a fan of Chase Williamson since John Dies at the End, I think this is his strongest work. This is one I’d highly recommend once it creeps onto one of the many streaming sites.


J. Looking back on this one, I just have too many questions about things that I really shouldn’t have questions about.  I made the comment above that it seems to come out of nowhere that the serial killing family also houses kidnapped children.  Okay, but why?  And when did they start doing it?  This is one of those ideas that could be cut and it would greatly improve the film. The strengths that it does have like the score and some tense scenes of brutality and sadistic shit mixed with gore are a delight but they alone can’t salvage what seems pretty salvageable.  Hell, even Chase Williamson couldn’t salvage this thing and he was the best part of the film. 


K.  I’d have to agree with Craig, minus the recommendation.  It’s got a lot of ideas that aren’t developed, it almost has a post-apocalyptic feel even, though obviously they don’t have the budget to get into that territory.  But long story short it feels like there was more stuff to explore in the story that was never addressed.