Hello there my fellow gawkers at the grotesque, it’s Thakgore and today I bring you a review of a film belonging to a very niche part of the horror landscape, horror-noir. It’s a sub-genre I enjoy very much with films like Seven, John Dies at the End and the more recent He Never Died taking up prominent places in my “favorite horror movies” list. Will this film earn a spot beside it’s brethren? Let’s find out as we venture into the quagmire together and try not to get covered in…
Directed and written by Rusty Nixon and starring Matt Frewer, James Clayton, Taylor Hickson and Costas Mandylor, Residue is the story of a private detective named Luke Harding (Clayton) who, while working a job for a crooked wrestling promoter named Mr. Fairweather (Frewer), inadvertently comes into possession of an evil book that begins to consume his life.
I first heard of Rusty Nixon when someone recommended his film Candiland to me. While I didn’t enjoy the overall product I felt it showed a lot of promise. The strongest parts of that film were in Nixon’s ability to portray the surreal. When I saw the trailer for Residue I was encouraged to see if Nixon had grown as a filmmaker and discovered how to take all those bizarre ideas in his head and mold them into something resembling a satisfying story. Sadly, it seems he still has lessons to learn.
Residue is a better film than Candiland so that’s a start, however Nixon’s larger problem remains the same. He seems more concerned with the mysteries he presents than making sense of them or giving us any satisfaction as viewers. I admit that I was genuinely intrigued by what was going on up until the halfway mark only to be left hanging by a completely unsatisfying conclusion. With a plot that hinges on getting to the end to find out the ultimate answer (both figuratively and literally) I expected a finale that was far less contrived than what I got. Nixon covers the canvas with so much chaos and insanity I think he backed himself into a corner that he didn’t have the strength to punch out of.
That doesn’t mean that there are not bright spots to be found. Genre vets Matt Frewer and Costas Mandylor play their parts well with lead James Clayton playing the harried but big hearted protagonist with much steely naivete. The effects work was maybe the strongest part of the production with inventive use of puppetry, lighting and prosthetics. The fate of Mr. Fairweather, in particular, was a highlight that had me giggling in spite of its gruesomeness.
There is a sub-plot that involves the main character, Luke, and his strained relationship with his daughter who comes to stay with him. Since Luke’s father was emotionally abusive he fears that he may make the same mistakes with his own child. This sub-plot is another attempt by Nixon to detail the importance of the parent-child relationship and is mirrored by certain plot elements. The only problem is, yet again, it has a weak conclusion with not nearly enough emotional weight behind it. It almost works but is hindered by lack of conflict and not enough effort being devoted to proper character development.
I did enjoy Nixon’s attempt at placing this film in a world all its own. Several little touches in production design point to it taking place outside of our reality and allow us to believe just a little more in the ridiculous things that are happening to the characters. With televisions and cellphones that far outstrip our own technological advances he tilts reality for the viewer just enough to put us off balance. It’s a touch that does a lot more for the plot than you would think.
In conclusion I have to say I’m both encouraged and frustrated by this film. I think it’s a big step in the right direction for Rusty Nixon but I’m not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend it. While I like the acting and effects I think their effectiveness was wasted on an overly contrived, meandering plot with a pat and uninteresting ending. I’d say give it a look if you don’t mind not getting any answers and just want to watch something weird. It’s got weird locked down, that’s for sure. 3 out of 5
Residue is available on VOD and Amazon Video.