Ariel Konk, A former soldier fleeing from his regrettable past, seeks refuge in an isolate cabin located deep in the forest, adjacent to a lagoon. Struggling to live off the land and coping with loneliness, the soldier marches on, exploring his new, secluded surroundings. His loneliness comes to an end when investigating the ruins of a dilapidating building structure, spotting a masked half naked female and as he pursues her, Ariel witnesses her voluntarily jump from the highest level of the opened air building. Wrought with anguish, Ariel attempts suicide only to be knocked out before he could pull the trigger on his rifle. He wakes up being chained to the wall with a mute, mask figure drugging him and extracting his blood and semen fluids as necessary nutrients for a nearby Mandrake garden. A practice that has been executed many times before Ariel’s arrival.
“DIS” is a bordering arthouse horror film from writer-director Adrian Corona (“Nariz Ioca”). A blend from a horror influenced literary poem and a mythological folkore, Corona crafts a lurid, hyperbolic story that pulls, as Cornoa describes as a prefix of sorts, from Dante Alighieri’s epic journey through hell told in Dante’s Inferno, using the City of Dis that’s described as a lower hell for sinners who’ve committed violent and fraudulent transgressions, and interlocks that inspiration with the archaic lore surrounding the Mandrake plant that involves superstitiously condemning those to hell after reaping the intensely narcotic plant with the human shaped root and that would, also superstitiously, scream when pulled. “DIS” is full of interpretative terror through the 61 minute runtime that’s virtually expressive. Corona provides little dialogue to his script, keeping most of the dialect scribal incased within flashback confines, and let his actors’ raw emotions and visceral eloquence provide the tale that’s peppered with moments of visual shock and cathartic abhorrence.
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Bill Oberst Jr. is one hell of an actor. The upcoming Rob Zombie “3 from Hell” actor has become a prominent staple professional in the indie horror film circuit, tackling the bizarre, the inexplicable, and the most difficult of roles with such vigor and passion that his motivation is seemingly inhuman. Right up there with “Deadly Revisions,” “DIS’ tops or equals being one of the best performances of his career, from the perspective of this reviewers’ cache of Bill Oberst Jr films. There’s quite a bit of difficulty catching up to the man who roughly does, whether as a lead or as support, 10 films a year! As Ariel Konk, Oberst captures the essence of pain and anger that saturates the character’s own personal delirium and hell with his past mistake catching up to his self-battered soul. The faceless figure who opposites Ariel feeds off the ex-soldiers repugnant and guilt-riddled past actions in a seemingly perverse mission that’s actually mandated by the suspected demon’s Mandrake lot. The plants are held in a nursery for engendering creatures, but what kind of creatures exactly? Other demons from the seed of murdered vehement people?
Remaining cast include Peter Gonzales Falcon, “Prison Heat’s” Lori Jo Hendrix, Manuel Dominguez, and Anne Voitsekhova.
The casual viewer will inherently disavow the hour spent watching “DIS” due to a number of reasons, whether it’s Ariel wandering the forest for more than half the film, or dialogue is fairly infrequent, or the chaptered sequence of events don’t perfectly describe just what the hell is going, or, just perhaps, the motif of genital masturbation and mutilation is just too much to stomach. Either way, “DIS’s” traction will slip and only a few are willing to get dirty and push the story forward with open mindedness and artistic appreciation. Speaking of artistic appreciation, Rocco Rodriguez’s cinematography is a character upon itself. The top of a Cofre de Perote volcano in Perote, Veracruz, Mexico during principal photography has breathtaking visuals that Rodriguez captures exquisitely and becomes a backdrop against the coarse material. Outside is vivid, bright, full of life, but when in the belly of the rundown structure, the manmade confines are claustrophobic and crummy, infernally ablaze for ritual, much to the akin of Dante’s Inferno. Rodriguez, again, depicts lustrous imagery that assists in telling Corona’s nightmarish story and that’s a skill all can recognize.
MVD Visual and Unearthed Films present Adrian Corona’s enigmatic and surreal “DIS” from 1922 Films onto high definition Blu-ray. The region A release is presented in a widescreen, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and has the near epitome of perfect with, again, Rocco Rodriguez stunning photography. The lighting really comes to the fold that upheaves the brilliancy in the textures, such as in the building’s illustrious graffiti, and dares to switch to black and white when appropriate. Skin tones are fresh looking and natural in colored scenes. Only a minor aliasing issue around Obsert flared up momentarily, but ceased going forward. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has forefront dialogue, but not a bit soft, especially with Peter Gonzales, that made following difficult. There was not enough examples of range or depth to necessarily comment as Oberst was essentially alone for much of the film. Bonus features include an explanation introduction by writer-director Adrian Corona, a behind-the-scenes featurette that exhibits three takes of two scenes, a wonky static menu Q&A formatted interview with Bill Oberst Jr., a short film entitled “Portrait,” still gallery, and Unearthed Films trailers. Bill Oberst Jr. is, basically, a one man show knitted into an Adrian Corona allegory of unknown terror through conduits of literary works and medieval folklore, making “DIS” prime real estate for viewers seeking a film as an open book toward abstract gardening.