When developer project manager Daniel, on the verge of a lucrative deal in flattening an old rental property , meets Nina, a clairvoyant who rents space on the property, an mystifying, and on the house, psychic reading opens up old wounds of Daniel’s previous life involving the death of his beloved artist wife, Maggie. The successful developer becomes frantically obsessed with reaching Maggie from the other side, believing he is paying Nina handsomely to be a vessel conduit, but as a single mother on the verge of losing everything, Nina exploits Daniel’s fixation on the past that’s more dangerous than initially presumed. Daniel and Nina become sexually and spiritually entangled on two false pretense fronts while behind the scenes, a malevolent presence orchestrates a sinister campaign of perverse revenge.
In her fiction feature film debut, Ilana Rein writes and directs “Perception,” a 2018 suspense thriller aimed unsheathe and reactivate the agonizing secrets and those who reap the benefits from them. Rein, who previously helmed documentaries that includes the award winning Battlestar Galatica fandom documentary, “We Are All Cyclons, pivots from non-fiction into creative invention alongside producer and writing partner Brian Smith. “Perception” tackles various themes from severe mental illness, to dangerous obsession, to how we initially and naively perceive individuals without knowing exactly who they really are, especially when they’re in the white collar, high dollar, social category. Rein focuses on rooting out psychotic and sociopathic qualities through the power of flashbacks while chucking in a scornful spirit into the background for good climatic measure.
“Perception” perceives hard bodies and chiseled faces over a few recognizable ones, which typically isn’t a bad aspect of filmmaking but may not draw a wide viewership. Though in the entertainment industry for some time, Wes Ramsey is one of those fresh faces, headlining as Daniel, the successful developer with an unhealthy mania for his deceased wife. Ramsey has seen more roles in television than in feature films, but the “Brotherhood of Blood” and “Dracula’s Guest” actor pockets horror theatrics here and there and uses his tall, dark, and handsome charm to be a good source for Daniel as the presumptuous, if not stereotypical, good guy. Opposite Ramsey is Meera Rohit Kumbhani, an Indian American actress with beautiful big and round eyes, to star as the clairvoyant Nina. Kumbhani has solid onscreen sincerity and a sexiness to match, but as Ninia’s has a principle crises, Kumbhani is able to sell practically a RickRolls performance that fools us all as uncertainty clouds judgement about her ethics when it’s whether to exploit a desperate widow or pay for her troubled young son’s educational necessities. Together, Ramsey and Kumbhani contently compliment each other’s performances and when you mixed the specter playing Chaitlin Mehner in flashback sequences, an out-of-body love triangle experience ensues. Rounding out the cast is Max Jenkins, J Ro, Vee Kumari, and J. Barrett Cooper as the only face I recognize more recently from Nathan Thomas Millinar’s “A Wish for the Dead.”
The depth of the story, especially with main characters Daniel and Nina, really hinders judgement on the outputted result. Not enough vivid and harrowing memories of Daniel and Maggie’s rocky relationship stir very little toward a stroppy receipt for disaster. Their coupling went from casual to 120 mph in two scenes flat never laying down a sturdy foundation on why viewers should put stock into their story if there’s no stock to really sell. Same can be said for Nina and her son’s simmering obtuse relationship where Nina believes all is hunky-dory, despite her son’s suddenly mute stature, and her unmotherly attentiveness to his disturbingly illustrated clues to his inner demons. Stronger supporting characters saw through the boy’s facade, such as Nina’s friend J Ro (who plays himself, by the way) and her mother; both of whom are on the polar opposite sides of the clairvoyant spectrum. Those underwhelming characters flaws suck the energy out from the main arteries in Daniel and Nina’s carnal exploits and meddling to thwart the very fiber of “Perception’s” thrilling suspense.
Ilana Rein’s “Perception” comes to DVD home video courtesy of Gravitas Ventures and presented into a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ration. Image quality is obvious clean as with all digitally shot, yet the hues are a slightly warm, favoring more of a yellowish tint into every scene, and while maintaining solid definition, some scenes bask in a softer glow at times. Stylistically, not much to report as the film follows conventional strides. The English language 5.1 surround sound has strong, dialogue favoring, and balanced with depth and range. There is also a dual channel track available, but not really needed, as enough dramatics flare up to tip into the five channel. As bonus features go, there are none. Ilana Rein’s debut into the feature film market could have been worse, but “Perception” is a strong entry into the horror-thriller market with some Hitchcockian undertones. Definitely sexy and psychotic, “Perception” puts onto a pedastal humanity’s worst when the sheep’s clothing has finally shed and that’s worth reviewing.
In a wake of fatally striking down a young woman with their vehicle, two errant and drunk men, Goyo and Gordo, are arrested for the gruesome crime at the scene of the accident While handcuffed in the back of a squad car, an unorthodox police chief named Juarez discovers a video tape recorder in the front of their mangled car with a tape revealing the violent torture and killing of a young transvestite hooker. One tape leads to another, and then another, individually exhibiting a trail of cascading blood and merciless torture in the deaths caused by Goyo and his unstable and dysfunctional life. Juarez digs further into Goyo’s ghastly cases going through each horrific tape setting up Goyo for a shocking conclusion from his past he long thought was dead.
“Atroz” will make you never want to tour Mexico! I can fully understand why “Cannibal Holocaust” director Ruggero Deadato fully backs Lex Ortega’s graphic horror film an associate producer and presenter as the two films, separated by decades, are much alike with the majority of their likeness in found footage techniques, frighteningly realistic imitations of murder, and their artistic and austere grandeur of filmmaking narration. Ortega also sustains an effective horror feature through the confines of a problematic ultra micro-budget. Along with aid from a talented roster of actors and crew, no way was Ortega’s film was not being made. “Atroz,” translated to “Atrocious,” opens with the unsavory side of Mexico’s impoverishment that contributes to much of the Central American nation’s disturbing amount of unsolved murders. The montage opening is so powerful and moving that what precedes shocks as a gritty insight of what everyday Mexican residents might experience one way or another in their lifetime and though Ortega goes that extra mile to be obscene and disgusting in every way possible, the director supports his work with seeding a traditionally patriarchal society with gender identity afflictions that evolves organically and is purposefully displayed in reverse order to add more, if it wasn’t possible already, to the shock value of “Atroz.”
The outer story involving Goyo’s interrogation about his stash of tapes is only the tip of the iceberg, sheltering three background influencing stories about Goyo that set up more familiarly in an anthology manner. Inked with intricate arm sleeve tattoos and perforated with metal facial piercings, Goyo and his larger friend Gordo, which means large man in Spanish fittingly enough, seem nothing more than your typical lowlife gangbangers. However, Goyo and Gordo are more disturbed than any Mexican cholos from the first torture tape of a transvestite prostitute, a punished, bit-part role awarded to actress/singer Dana Karvelas. The next two tapes are just as hard to swallow and stomach from the assorted fluid being consumed, to the explicit varying degrees of rape, to the vivd genitalia multination, and to just the sheer ultra violence depicted makes “Atroz” the gorehound’s holy grail of horror. Never have I’ve witness a film so graphic to come out of Mexico and, by golly, I thought the world needed this Lex Ortega film. In most cases, extreme gore and shock features run a course shortly after hitting the play button on your home entertainment device, but with “Atroz,” a drive to learn more about what motivates Goyo’s unholy acts unravel little-by-little and that quality is usually omitted and uncharacteristic of explicit gore horror.
Performances are firmly established all around with Carlos Valencia and Lex Ortega himself leading the charge as Juarez and Goyo. While Ortega doesn’t necessary have much of dialogue role with Juarez during interrogations, the undiluted carnage he lays down on the tape recordings are a rare and twisted characterization hardly visited by the indie circuit and certainly not given the light of day from Hollywood, being mostly sidelined to an underground context. Rare is it to have one actor who can impersonate malice upon others that when a doppleganger appears in Goyo’s younger years video tape, “Atroz” becomes that much of brighter highlight as a dark film birthed from Mexico. Carlos Padilla truly frightens as the younger version of Goyo staged in an abusive household with an unsympathetic father, an naive mother, and lots of physical and verbal mistreatment. Goyo’s a psychoanalytical unicorn, an epitome of the mind’s deranged wealth, and a testament that his surroundings molded the very fibers of his intentions do commit evil. The sight of blood is all it takes arouse Goyo and “Atroz” provides the character an ocean of sangre ready for lapping.
Practical effects wizards Jamie Lopez and Alfredo Olguín produced unrivaled effects on a budget that didn’t provide a second chance if the effect didn’t spin right the first round. Absolutely flawless did the duo’s work gleam in the blood it was soaked in and firmly how I held on for dear life my testicles when seeing a set being cleaved graphically severed. Lopez and Olguín have a combined 23-years of experience in the special effects game and that surfaced buoyantly at the top of “Atroz’s” shocking content. In the nature versus nurture debate, “Atroz” sides with nurture putting Goyo in the impoverished and traditional meat grinder that is Mexico and spat him out where wades in a chrysalis until bursting out into a state of lust for an endless stream of revenge and blood. Ortega accomplishes nurture’s wickedness by tenfold and Lopez and Olguín exemplifies it even more.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual’s limited edition 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD set includes a JH5 & Eggun soundtrack. Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 79 minute runtime feature sports no blemishes and falters on any flaws, baring and setting a fitting desolate tone through a number of camera options. There’s also and English and Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional English subtitles intent on properly channeling every port of your surround sound system. A pair of issue lie with the subtitles involving quite a few typos in English and some synchronization problems delaying captioning a full second or two after dialogue has proceeded. Bonus material includes the short film of “Atroz,” a crowd funding video, behind the scenes: music and sound design, behind the scenes: practical effects, behind the scenes: production, Unearthed trailers, a behind the scenes image gallery, and, of course, the aforementioned soundtrack. Whatever you do, don’t consume any food before and during experiencing the gore charged “Atroz,” Mexico’s most deranged cinematic delicacy to date!