Studio: Terror Films
Director: Zachary Beckler
Writer: Zachary Beckler
Producer: Zachary Beckler, Susan Williams
Stars: Christopher Carullo, Piper Rae Patterson, Shannon Michael Wamser, Autumn Rae Shannon, Zachary Beckler
A film school graduate accepts an ex-girlfriend’s offer to spend the night alone in her haunted house and record evidence of paranormal activity.
Film school flunky Sam thinks paranormal activity is mostly a load of paranonsense. That is until former flame Allison offers cold cash to put his GoPros to good use. Allison, her husband, and young daughter Danyl (“it’s an alternate spelling”) have a house with a haunted history and a resident entity known as Emily. While the frightened family departs for a night spent in calmer quarters, Sam’s task is to brave the home solo and capture a supernatural sighting on camera.
Most of Sam’s evening is occupied by boredom and silent snooping. He even fishes some props from a closet and stages a brief horror hoax of his own. Things take a turn into terror not long after, when dresser drawers begin opening on their own and a kitchen knife repeatedly falls to the floor. Something sinister is definitely in the house with Sam. Whatever its intentions are, they don’t include Sam making it to morning.
“Interior” is first-time feature filmmaker Zachary Beckler’s full-length follow-up of sorts to his short film “Séance,” which played Fantastic Fest in 2012. (Interested parties may also wish to seek out “Where Is Alice?,” Beckler’s 2014 short that pulls double duty as a sequel to “Séance” and an epilogue to “Interior.”) Shot in a single location with only five actors, three of which disappear during the first act and one of whom is the director, “Interior” is a microbudget movie featuring “found footage” frights with slow-burn supernatural style.
If you’re ready to tune out due to trigger terms in that last sentence, nothing offered by additional words will turn your interest around. “Interior” covers respectable ground for a simple story keeping one actor in one place, but it is far from original in the first-person subgenre or the horror world as a whole. The film’s roster of terror tactics lines up some usual suspects of a séance gone wrong, a grisly past murder, a child communicating with ghosts, flittering background shadows, and assorted home alone creaks. Add in an unavoidably amateur aesthetic and no matter how many macabre moments the movie manages, nothing gives cause to shout, “this demands to be seen!”
For something primarily amounting to a one-man show, fresh face Christopher Carullo capably carries the movie with near Herculean strength. Carullo has a Joshua Jackson-ish charm of nonthreatening cynicism, and plenty of unassuming presence to be a relatable Average Joe with a little edge of likability.
Funny isn’t an accurate word, but “Interior” also has a slight sense of humor in its buildup even though it treats its content seriously. The movie takes its time getting where it wants to go, yet Carullo and the tone find creative ways to squeeze out interesting scares that give “Interior” an illusion of being more eventful than it actually is.
Hiding in plain sight however, is the film’s offscreen secret. Produced on a dollar amount of under $13,000, “Interior” is actually writer/director Zachary Beckler’s MFA thesis project for the University of Central Florida. Yes, “Interior” is technically a student film… and it shows.
“Interior” cruises confidently and competently as a quiet thriller for some time, until Beckler is no longer able to resist the temptation to partake in cinematic experiments interesting only to fledgling filmmakers still finding their footing. Exhibit A is an absolutely annoying end sequence involving a Kubrickian circle of light spinning and oscillating with various patterns to simulate a ghost possessing the camera. This sequence continues for so long that the idea occurred it might never end at all. A creation like this is driven by an overzealous fascination with what an in-camera effect can do, not with what a narrative needs. Experienced eyes recognize the difference between an inclusion for story’s sake and a misguided notion of, “this looks cool.”
Warning signs of creative overindulgence start with an extended mid-movie treatise on Schrodinger’s cat, the type of topic popularly philosophized in college environments, and run through to a “Choose Your Own Interpretation” conclusion confusing itself as avant garde for being indecisive. Getting carried away with auteur ideas is not only acceptable, but also rightfully encouraged in students exploring their styles. Except “Interior” has altered initial grad school goals to set sights on a commercial release, where such conceits serve no useful function. “Interior” can fit into one category or the other, but it cannot fit into both.
If I’m a professor assigning a grade for graduation, Zachary Beckler earns an A and I would happily move the tassel to the other side of his cap. As a horror film fan purchasing a ticket for an evening’s entertainment, the movie’s bumps, bangs, and bruises have a harder time finding forgiveness. “Interior” shows promise, and ticks requisite boxes for a newcomer getting used to the ropes. Though to compete in the arena of an already-crowded indie film market, “Interior” has to put more polish on the table than a Halloween-masked ghost.
Review Score: 60