Written by: : Anthony Spadaccini and Jay Cusack
Directed by: Anthony Spadaccini
Starring: Mark Cray, Devin Kates, and Robert Z‘Dar
Reviewed by: Brett G.
“I spread my disease to the damaged.”
Despite what Scream would have you believe, there are precious few planned horror trilogies kicking around out there. So often, horror series live and die with their box office receipts, leaving many to unfold haphazardly before petering out once they aren’t profitable anymore. This isn’t the case with Anthony Spadaccini’s Head Case series, which, from the outset, aimed to be a sadistic triptych chronicling a descent into madness. The first two entries in this series have been the cinematic equivalent of traveling down a dark tunnel with little light at the end; now, the third and final entry, Post-Mortem, arrives to let us know if the entire journey was worthwhile.
We are now following the exploits of Wayne Montgomery’s step-son, John Craven, who was previously introduced in The Ritual. Craven has taken an interest in a depressed, suicidal teen named Seth, whose neglectful parents are perpetually wasted on drugs. Taking a cue from Wayne, he takes Seth under his wing as his new apprentice, and sets him on a path filled with homicide and gruesome self-discovery.
Post-Mortem essentially feels like a retread of the previous film, which dealt with a similar master/apprentice angle. This time around, the story is stronger and more effective due to our leads being much more interesting and well-developed. While Wayne Montgomery was an interesting and unique serial killer with his deadpan, matter-of-fact delivery, John Craven feels a little bit more authentic. He’s wild-eyed, grungy, maniacal, and obviously enjoys his work, as he constantly taunts his victims as they expire. His protégé Seth also feels more believable than his counterpart from the previous film, Jared, whose doe-eyed exuberance quickly grew tired. It helps that we see Seth develop from the outset--he begins as depressed teen who belongs to a suicide cult, but soon comes out of his skin as he sets out on his road to “freedom.” The dynamic between the two characters works well considering the somewhat outlandish concept, as it still manages to feel believable due to the solid performances by the leads.
These two are also joined by most of the characters from the previous film, as the film actually occurs concurrently with the previous two films, before later following up on them. This one sheds some more insight on the “serial killer support group,” which is really more like a demented Brady Bunch, complete with a cannibal patriarch (portrayed by an almost unrecognizable Robert Z’Dar). We’re even taken back directly to some of the events of the previous films, particularly The Ritual, whose sprawling narrative is actually told more efficiently here than it was in the film itself. With so much going on, Post-Mortem feels a lot like its predecessors: there’s not so much a direct, tight plot as there is a loose thread that’s punctuated by a lot of bizarre and disturbing sequences.
This final entry might be the most effective of the trilogy in that respect. At times, Spadaccini weaves a positively haunting tale with some powerful images; Seth’s journey is a dark one, and it’s perhaps more disturbing than anything the previous films had to offer (which is saying something). When the story focuses on this aspect, it works well, and its climax is disturbingly affecting and surprisingly emotional. A lot of the surrounding elements don’t work nearly as well, and it’s a shame the movie just sort of peters out after its high point, but when it wants to be, it can be strangely captivating. To extend the “dark tunnel” analogy, imagine a bright light emerging at the end--only you discover it’s an oncoming train that soon wrecks. The ensuing chaos sprawls out and unfolds aimlessly, but you can't look away. That’s Post-Mortem in a nutshell.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel that satisfying as a final entry, precisely because it fails to deliver on the interesting cliffhanger involving Wayne’s daughter from The Ritual. Instead, it leaves the door wide open for another follow-up, which would admittedly interest me. If it were to happen, however, Spadaccini will have to be willing to move forward; the story he’s told so far has been somewhat bloated and a bit redundant at times, but there are still some interesting avenues to be explored here. Post-Mortem itself doesn’t feel like the end to a journey at all, but if it is, it’s been one nihilistic journey that really leaves us no better off than we were at the beginning. That probably reflects some sort of grim reality, so don’t expect to be entertained by these films; however, if you can stomach it, you might be somewhat fascinated by the madness explored therein. Rent it!
For more information, please visit the film's website.
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