A rough patch in an abusive relationship opens up an opportunity for Myra and Owen to reconnect on a retreat at Owen’s family mountain cabin. With wilderness for miles around, not a soul can disturb their serene getaway in retrieval what is lost in their relationship. What they find is a biotic evil that has cursed Owen’s family once before and has returned to build a divide between the struggling lovers as a single, break-the-skin nip can transform anyone into a beastly monster. Myra and Owen’s love for one another is put to the test when the monster blood insidiously begins to take over, leaving nearly nothing recognizable left behind the eyes.
A complete monster movie bred out of the indie spirit with a callback to prosthetic practical effects that evokes a mental and emotion psychological theme around the durability of a relationship after being compromised by internal abuse and, possible, heredity mental health. That’s the deep dive, suppositional story surrounding Austin Snell’s 2018 sophomoric feature film “Exposure” with a script penned by Snell and first-time screenwriter Jake Jackson. “Exposure” is filmed in the wooded mountains of scenic Leadville, Colorado just outside the city limits of the quaint, stuck-in-time downtown where annual skijoring is a popular attraction right in the heart of town on mainstream. Snell and Jackson produce the film alongside Clayton Ashley, who has worked as a gaffer on Snell’s debut feature “Erasure,” under their Kansas based LLC production company, Sunrunner Films.
You can bet your lift ticket that the cast of “Exposure” is not strapping on skies and gripping to a rope for their dear life as a horse pulls the skier through the streets of downtown to go over manmade slopes and obstacles. I wouldn’t think Snell would want to risk his four-person cast to such revelry actions that could result in injury. Instead, a quiet, cabin-in-the-woods shoot leaves the actors to focus on the story at hand where a ingrained woodland evil infects and destroys an already bridle relationship between young couple Myra (Carmen Anello, “Zombie Beauty Pageant” and “I Am Lisa”) and James (Owen Lawless, “Hell Town”). Anello and Lawless make a cute couple with some baggage hanging over their heads that is mostly implied rather than fully divulged and they sell well what their characters are struggling with, which is mainly trust. Afraid of Owen’s temper, Myra is reluctant about moving forward in their relationship whereas Owen’s trust lies with Myra separating herself from an affair with a doting fling with a penchant for sending her sweet nothing texts she tries desperately to ignore. I honestly don’t feel the immense love and hate tension in the room between Anello and Lawless who are more like best friends with an occassional spat than lovers going through a severe rough patch. The more show of passion between them clings to the insincerity but that’s the high note for the connection between them. Lynn Lowery (“I Drink Your Blood,” “The Crazies”) has a small role in flashbacks as Owen’s grandmother and Bruce Smith as the grandfather.
If you have already viewed Austin Snell’s “Exposure” then you likely know that the title is entangled in a double meaning. Perhaps even a triple meaning. Mountainous woods surrounded by frigid air with little-to-no help in sight leads to the vulnerability against the natural elements. In this case, the evil is the element, an unnatural one, that has laid claim to the area and sought the generational organic matter of Owen and Myra for its vile purposes – to spread its wickedness through the veins and mutate its victim into a hideous, baleful beast with a mind to match. The third meaning is more metaphorical as the term exposure can also be defined as the revelation of a typically bad thing that wasn’t clear before. In the film, Owen and Myra are going through a tough period in their romance with one of the inimical causes is Owen’s explosive and hurtful anger. Slithers of his masked morose behavior bubble to the surface in a motif view of just why they need to sort out the turbulent present in order for their possible future to resemble their merry past. The flashback story about Owen’s grandparents shed some light that what Owen may be going through is inborn, hereditary, and unchangeable; Owen’s reason and love mutates toward a gradual descent into monstrous behavior and that’s what the evil symbolically represents. Snell just happens to spin genuine relationship woes into an emblematic story with campy practical creature feature prosthetics and makeup. What most will dislike about “Exposure” is Snell’s true indie, natural approach to the special features that relies heavy on the cheesy, rubbery prosthetics and tangible tube and rod special effects without a lick of visual imagery for a smoothed over appearance. I applaud Snell for his raw, if not antiquated, choice that nods the throwbacks in the absence of contemporary conveniences.
For the first time on home video, “Exposure” makes a Blu-ray debut courtesy of Scream Team Releasing and distributed by MVD Visual. The not rated, NTSC region free, AVC encoded Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 16X9 (1.78:1) aspect ratio. The 1080p, high-definition resolution looks pretty good and detailed, despite the heavy blue tint and gels, with negligible compression issues, especially with the heavy use of fog machine and a number of night scenes that don’t display noticeable banding or fuzzy/blotchy pixelation. The English language PCM 2.0 stereo audio provides a lossy amplitude that’s definitively detrimental to “Exposure’s” teetering success with audiences and the tracks don’t punch like that should for an atmospheric creature feature. The dialogue also sounds a bit boxy and artificial at times but, nonetheless, the dialogue track is still clear and discernible. Special features include cast and crew audio commentaries, a quick glimpse featurette into the behind-the-scenes of the special features, production stills, theatrical trailer, and retro VHS trailer. The physical Blu-snap case comes with reversible cover art, which, if you ask me, the secondary cover is the best with the illustrated, shadowy monster looming over a brightly lit heroine carrying a flashlight and a small axe. “Exposure’s” tribute veneer to the 80’s creature feature is spectacular without a doubt but lacks the energy to fully come to terms with its theme that’s become caught in the throes of a throwback rather than in the throes of relationship reconciling.