Director – Joe Meredith (South Mill District, Teratomorph)
Starring – Joel Barnette (Variant), Samuel Barnette (Variant), and Nhi Burton
Release Date – 2023
Rating – 3.5/5
I’ve been actively watching and reviewing indie horror films for over a decade now. I’ve reviewed so many wild and offbeat horror films like Isle of the Damned, Psycho Ape, The Thingy: Confessions of a Living Placenta, and Killer Rack. On the opposite side of the same coin, I’ve reviewed some seriously brutal and gory films that have a coherent story and doesn’t overload you with gore with the lack of plot. This can be seen in films like Nutsack, Headless, Freak, and several films from artist and filmmaker Joe Meredith. His films South Mill District, Teratomorph, and Variant are wonderfully gory while delivering a simple story for viewers.
I absolutely despise films that lack stories but over do the gore. They are extremely boring to me but the films from Meredith is able to combine the best of both worlds. When I was preparing for October horror binge Joe reached out to review his newest film Variant II. I couldn’t wait to check it out and quickly agreed. I want to thank Joe for reaching out and allowing Horror Society and myself the opportunity to check it out!
**spoiler Alert** The film picks up after the collapse of the organization responsible for studying alien DNA. Now the government is tasked with removing and storing the creatures but they quickly drop the ball. Now alien mutations are loose in the world creating new monstrosities that feed on the flesh of humans. **Spoiler Alert**
The films by Joe Meredith are easily recognizable by his unique art style and bleak atmosphere with some seriously impressive practical effects. When you blend them in with the stories that he brings to life you are left with something that truly stands out from what other filmmakers are doing aside from the folks at Very Fine Crap. Both have similar styles but where Meredith is more focused on the art and design, James Bell of Very Fine Crap is a musician with more focus on the film’s score. I really enjoy films from both of these filmmakers and while I am comparing the two I’m doing so in hopes people who watch Joe’s films will want to check out James’ and vice versa. Their films truly are unique in the world of indie horror. Variant II is another fantastic film from Joe and now I seriously want to binge all his films after finally checking this one out.
The acting in this one fits the film but it’s not acting in a traditional sense. The film is full of creatures and human hybrids which doesn’t give the cast a chance to act like a typical manner.
The story for this one is a wild blend of classic 16 bit video games and mid-90s direct to video horror/sci-fi flicks. We pick up as the evil corporation experimenting with aliens is dissolved and the specimen are now accidentally released into the populace. I love how Meredith approached this film like a video with mini-bosses like the clown-hybrids and so on. It was very clever and fucking worked. This plot is so rich with possibilities and I can’t wait to see where we go next.
Finally, this film is a gorehounds wet dream. We have some seriously amazing practical effects with juicy gore and amazing make-up effects. The effects match the story so well and they look absolutely amazing. I forgot to check the credits when I was watching this but I think I spotted some gags from James Bell but I’m not 100 perfect certain. Regardless, they look great and scratches that itch for gore. Overall, Variant II is another must see from Joe Meredith. I cannot recommend his films enough and this is another solid horror release. Do yourself a favor and check out this guy’s work. He does not disappoint.