Sunday, September 16, 2018


Two women, their relationship past its last legs, make a last-ditch salvage effort at couples counseling. The grounded Petra (Maine Anders) is going through the motions (even though the therapist is an acquaintance of hers), while the flightier Olive (Rosebud) seems almost naively convinced that theirs was a love meant to be. Therapist Claremont Bazill (Brian Silliman) lays out the ground rules for the session, and insists that he's there to illuminate the relationship, not necessarily to save it.

Abe Goldfarb's tight, intimate film (scripted by Mac Rogers) plays so firmly as an intimate, black-and-white, play on film that one gets onto its wavelength regardless of preconceptions. The Gallery of the title isn't even mentioned until about 20 minutes in. One or two frenetic phone calls later (and with at least one untold story looming over the story), our cast take off for Gallery Kay at the movie's midpoint.

Much of the joy of this movie comes through the steadiness of its revelations, and it's a difficult thing to write up without giving those things away. Those who catch the distinctly Lovecraftian whiff off the title have a hint of where it winds up, and should be delighted how it gets there. Despite the neat bifurcation of its settings, the movie remains a relationship drama, even as its stakes turn downright apocalyptic. And though the power dynamics shift among the characters, their roles remain movingly consistent. We want Petra and Olive to stay together, and not just because the fate of our world may depend on it. And Bazill's insistence on sticking to what he knows, and talking these women through their increasingly-complex relationship, could have been played for bloody-minded comedy but instead comes off as desperate, terrified, and bracingly human.

One wishes for more overt, on-screen flourishes of the story's growing unease and horror. The otherworldly madness in the eyes of the receptionist (an eerily convincing Kristen Vaughan) over an ambiguously bloodied hospital mask is an unsettling touch, but the film plays the let-it-play-in-the-imagination card a mite too stridently and too often. There's enough intelligence and creativity on display throughout the movie to suggest that more overt twists were within the filmmakers' reach. But Goldfarb has sacrificed such gestures in favor of grounding his more-than-capable cast inside the rich world(s) of their characters, and on that front the movie certainly pays off. We may not get to really see the true horror unfold, but thanks to the performances we sure as hell feel it.

In all, The Horror at Gallery Kay remains an effective slowburn, a must for those who appreciate creative, low-budget horror with a patient, character-driven approach.

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