It’s fun to test the waters. Unlike most other genres, horror takes many shapes, sizes and colors and what scares you doesn’t always have to be a Nazi butchering young women in a rural home (Hi, Ry Barrett). Sometimes horror can be the hallucinations and nightmarish thoughts that mentally damaged human beings act out on each other. There’s nothing scarier than real evil, right? Viewers are about to get a dose of this reality in the brand new feature film from extremely talented Canadian director Ryan M. Andrews with Art of Obsession. I was already shook from the moment the movie began – I do not like needles, at all – and I continued to be impressed by this artistic vision from the creator behind Sick: Survive the Night and Save Yourself. Andrews, production designer Ashley Hrivnak and cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson crafted a memorizing and atmospheric look into the life of an author and scriptwriter who truly puts the psycho in this psychological thriller.
In this artistic mash-up of Misery and Fatal Attraction, Ry Barrett stars as Kennedy Sait, a formerly in-demand writer struggling to find work while also battling a crippling drug addition. Just when he hits rock bottom and contemplates taking his own life, he receives a vision of the woman next door, Patricia Bailey (Winny Clarke), who unwillingly becomes his artistic muse and the reason he attempts to kick the habit. In a demented turn of events, the drugs were working to keep the darker side of Kennedy Sait at bay and now he becomes obsessed with Patricia, ultimately leading to her capture and imprisonment in his mansion. Now Patricia must fight for survival while Kennedy struggles to keep his dirty little secret from the police. Enter assorted family and friends and Kennedy’s plans don’t go as smoothly as he hoped in this story that mixes drama, sensuality and suspense and also stars Raven Cousens, Jessica Vano, Brian McDonald, Timothy Paul McCarthy, Margaret Jeronimo and Keegan Chambers.
Obviously, Art of Obsession draws major comparisons to Misery and it could be wagered that Art of Obsession is the Misery of a new generation. It’s certainly horrific in its own right without being gory and offensive while also building a suffocating level of suspense. Writer/director Ryan M. Andrews likened this piece of work to something related to David Lynch, but I’d like to think that this inspiration is nothing more than an homage. Time and time again, even with his short films, Andrews has proved that he is an extremely capable writer and director and he possesses a style all of his own. He never goes with the flow and he always takes genre defying risks that pay off and that’s why he’s always growing increasingly popular in the world of independent cinema. I’ve never been a big fan of David Lynch, but I am a fan of Ryan M. Andrews. When it comes to comparing his work, though, I think he accomplished something with Art of Obsession that Rob Zombie failed to do with Halloween 2. He succeeded in creating a worthwhile hallucination that warped and drove the central characters dark world without being overbearing. The muse in Art of Obsession is nothing more than a fantasy yet she’s more important than any of other lead and supporting characters.
An abduction flick fueled by women scorned, Art of Obsession is a complete cinematic experience and stylized to Andrews’ strengths. All of his works are focused and colorful yet dark and desolate. Cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson also worked on Andrews’ last movie, Save Yourself, so this could be why the movies appear so in sync. This expert camera work between the two men and the production design from Ashley Hrivnak absolutely drives Art of Obsession to become the product it was desired to be – an astounding, stimulating and visually stunning piece of experimental art. I know that this title is heading to film festivals in the very near future, and I think it’s going to be a contender for multiple cinematography and picture awards. Two scenes in particular – I’ll just call them ‘bathtub’ and ‘the wall of faces’ – are so dramatic and decorative that I had to stop and admire the work that was put into perfecting these shots. Just wow. I have to give props to producers Chris Cull (who also serves as editor), Eva Mancini, Bruno Marino and Mark Andrews for their roles in helping to provide the means of creating such a well rounded picture. As a reviewer, I’m so invigorated to see film-making of this caliber from smaller studios.
Art of Obsession will be a crowd pleaser because the audience gets to see the infatuation before it goes off the rails and takes a trip to Crazy Town USA. Kennedy is so in tune to a true writer in Hollywood and he’s so kind and nurturing to Patricia at first. Then, the switch is flipped and he goes insane and the viewer will be shocked by that jump in character. Not only that, but Art of Obsession contains a blatant homage to Texas Chainsaw Massacre that’s bound to make the viewers smile and a soundtrack from Janal Bechthold and a full orchestra that is reminiscent of 28 Weeks Later. It ramps up the emotion of terror that you’ll already have and sets the mood well before the action happens. Ry Barrett is a chameleon of an actor and pulls off another fantastic performance here, and it was nice to see other actors and actresses who aren’t overused in this genre. At this point, I know I’m just throwing out random thoughts, but I can’t stop raving about this movie enough. It blew away my expectations and has much more than meets the eye. This is one to watch in 2017 and beyond. Keep an eye out for it or you’ll be chained to the floor, too! Final Score: 9 out of 10.