When it comes to horror films, serial killer horror is often the easiest entry into the genre. With a decent prosthetics team and some creativity, a good horror film can be made on the cheap with some pretty chilling effects (take, for instance, The Clovehitch Killer or Creep [and Creep 2] as some great examples of the recent strides in the sub-genre). Artik, directed by Tom Botchii Skowronski, takes a bit of a different approach to this type of film with a bit more of a fantastical tone to it. This is not a film that seeks to emulate any real-life parallels but still seeks to have a gritty, if over-the-top approach to a simple premise.
And a simple execution we get (pardon the pun).
Artik is not a film that is bad in any egregious way, but it’s nowhere near as compelling as the film first makes itself out to be. The film centers around a serial killer going by the name of Artik (Jerry G. Angelo), who is first made out to be a family man with a seemingly healthy, if a bit backwoods, family, and is obsessed with comic books. What the outside doesn’t see is within the family barn, Artik operates a brutal torture chamber for his randomly chosen victims, and now he’s looking to get his son, Boy Adam (literally his name) involved in the family business. Adam (Gavin White), however, soon befriends a lonely metalworker named Holton (Chase Williamson), who picks up on Adam’s disturbing behavior, leading him down a path of discovery that seeks to uproot the lives of everyone involved forever.
The biggest glaring flaw in Artik’s design isn’t its premise, but in how the execution leaves such little time for the film to actually flesh out the motives and intentions of any of its characters, leaving the film feeling hollow and filled with plot holes that lead the film to a rushed and generally unsatisfying conclusion. Add on that the film is bookended with a four-minute opening credits sequence and an eight-minute closing credits sequence, all a part of the film’s 78-minute runtime, what’s left feels more like a less memorable episode of Criminal Minds than anything else.
That being said, Artik is competently acted and directed from an objective standpoint. Chase Williamson steals the show as Holton, a sympathetic, if generally empty, character with some of the only likable qualities of any character in the entire film. His intentions are never really explained, leaving the viewer to wonder why anything in the film is actually occurring, but Williamson’s performance never leaves you questioning the legitimacy of his actions. Jerry G. Angelo’s performance as the sadistic Artik might be a bit over-the-top, but it’s the quieter moments that make his character worthwhile. In the darker, more violent moments of the film, however, his villainous nature never really feels compelling beyond the surface level.
Artik also upholds an appealing visual style that transfers really nicely to its Blu-ray release. Though likely shot on digital, the final product takes on a grainy, 16mm-like style that fits the neutral-toned Middle America aesthetic set with its every-town atmosphere. It has an Evil Dead sort of look to it, and whether that’s to cover up its sometimes shoddy visual effects or not, the final effect is one that director Tom Botchii Skowronski delivers well upon for the scale of the film.
Artik’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn’t lack in its more intense moments, despite it not being a lossless soundtrack. The film’s sound design is incredibly subwoofer heavy, with many scenes rumbling the living room with a nice, if occasionally overpowered, effect. The atmospheric surround sound effects created in Artik’s torture barn is also very effective in creating an uneasy atmosphere for the audience to watch the film in. The major issue with the soundtrack comes with the constant tinkering that has to be done with the volume between scenes of action and dialogue, as spoken lines can often sound too quiet to hear at a constant volume level. This is also the case on many of Disney’s Dolby Atmos soundtracks included on their flagship releases. That doesn’t make the case of Artik’s any less irritating, but I can at least understand the struggle a bit more on a smaller indie release such as this one, as opposed to releases from the world’s largest media company.
Artik didn’t do too much for me in the end, if only because the film doesn’t do anything particularly memorable during the short time it spends with us. It dabbles in some torture porn and definitely doesn’t skip on the graphic violence, but the film is so predictable and straightforward with its story and kills that it’s hard to find much sick horror enjoyment out of this when other, far more affecting horror films exist. Still, for such a short ride, there’re far worse films to be watched. The performances are generally strong and the film’s aesthetic is definitely worthy of commendation. The technical presentation on the Blu-ray is solid, if imperfect, but the special features are pretty impressive coming from such a small release. It’s nearly straight down the middle for Artik, but some points are coming off as the film lacks any real fun, which the film desperately needed to stay afloat without having much else to prove.
Special features on the Blu-ray disc include:
- Writer/Director Audio Commentary with Tom Botchii Skowronski
- The Characters Behind the Scenes Featurette
- The Chair Behind the Scenes Featurette
- Short films 11 Minutes and Goldblooded, directed by Tom Botchii (includes commentary on both films)
Available Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD beginning September 15th, 2019.
Final (Film) Score: 2 out of 5.