Visible Scars (2012)
“Effectively explores the violent nuances of abuse that many of us know all too well.”
GRADE: 3.5/5 Stars
by Richard Rey
Visible Scars is the antithesis of Mama and an excitably original, if not overtly cynical, horror-thriller in which two sisters don’t run from their mom but seek her out. Running throughout the duration of the film is the theme that abuse leads to fear which, in turn, leads to violence. Which begs the question, is victimization a reasonable excuse for our disposition? Can we and should we blame our choices on the damaging influence of others? Tied in is the ever-present motif that “not all men are bad, just the ones you love”; damn near overkill in its steady assault on masculinity – of special interest to me since the writer-director is male – that will likely only appeal to radical feminists. However, at its core, the movie seeks to educate and enlighten its audience with its dark portrayal of abusive father-daughter relationships; and that, my friends, takes courage.
Having been raised in the Inland Empire, the setting of the film sparked my interest instantly since it was shot on location in San Bernardino, CA. This desert region is recognized as the largest county (in area) in the U.S., the hometown of McDonalds and now, as the mountainous backwoods setting to a bloodthirsty poltergeist.
Redneck Mike Gillis (Tom Sizemore, Saving Private Ryan) squeezes the life out of his hired-on hooker in hopes of kidnapping her twin daughters to appease his withdrawn wife. Having successfully achieved the task, he asks, “I’m a daddy now, isn’t that somethin’?”. Locking the little girls in the basement, this monster-in-the-flesh avows they’ll never leave the house. Sizemore’s turn as the sadistically revolting backwoodsman evokes palpable fear; sick pigs like this actually exist.
We effectively plunge into present day, our attention shifting to Stacy (Jillian Murray), a young brunette who falls victim to an abusive boyfriend. Wanting to escape him to clear her head, she takes a trip to her deceased uncle’s remote cabin in Mount Falls where she becomes tormented by the voice of an unseen presence known for murdering its trespassers.
Featuring some surprisingly gruesome slasher sequences, this low budget indie-thriller won the jury over as best feature at the Shockfest Film Festival in 2012. The fact that the film doesn’t feel like a Dead Teenage Movie speaks volumes about its legitimacy; there’s something intelligible in its inception. It’s eschewal from full-frontal nudity is noteworthy, given the nature of its genre.
That said there are some irrefutable weaknesses in the pic that I would just as soon cut out of it starting with the corny B-movie acting from nearly all the ensemble; although admittedly the underwritten screenplay is at fault here, offering little to its supporting cast who play out like twentysomethings that are merely present for the carving session that will inevitably take place. Consequently, Visible Scars begins to feel like a late-night TV-movie on the Horror channel – which may not be a bad thing for writer-director Richard Turke. It’s an R-rated rendition of R.L. Stein’s Goose-bumps, reminding us of Nickolodeon’s chilling series Are You Afraid of the Dark with the addendum of gory bloodshed and F-bombs for effect. However, it is by no means a cliché child’s-play flick – especially considering it was shot in monthly increments due to production costs. No, this made-for-TV horror-thriller leaves us asking questions aplenty – some that resonate and others that fall into the wait-a-second-head-scratch category. Overall, though, Turke effectively explores the violent nuances of abuse that one too many of us know all too well.
The Echo Bridge Home Entertainment DVD release has much to offer in terms of Bonus material, featuring an alternate ending, deleted scenes, the trailer, and audio commentary by director Richard Turke. Both the picture quality and sound are excellent, presenting the film in a widescreen format.
Runtime: 102 min.
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Crime
Director: Richard Turke
Writer: Richard Turke (screenplay), Thomas L. Ferguson (script revision)
Stars: Jillian Murray, Tom Sizemore, Hannah Hall
Theatrical Release: April 2, 2013 (delayed)