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DECAY (review)

Review by Dean Galanis
Produced by Michael Haskins
Written and Directed by Joseph Wartnerchaney
Starring Rob Zabrecky, Lisa Howard,
Elisha Yaffe, Jackie Hoffman

Jonathan lives a very lonely life.

Living alone in his late mother’s home, his only human contacts are a sex-obsessed, annoying yet (somewhat touchingly) chummy co-worker and a gossipy neighbor who promised Jonathan’s mom she’d take care of him.

He’s seriously OCD, what with his insistence on opening and closing doors twice every time he uses them, and a creature of habit in the extreme, to the point where he almost seems programmed. 

He is on (undisclosed) medication for some (undisclosed) malady.

Into this monotonous existence enters a most-welcome “girlfriend” in the form of…a teenage girl’s corpse.

We – and Jonathan – are introduced to the girl in a strong opening scene, a robbery-gone-wrong (which makes amusing use of the classic Rupert Holmes song, “Escape”, aka “The Pina Colada Song”) that results in the accidental death of said teenager.

Being the intensely lonely, damaged soul that he is, Jonathan lies to cops investigating the girl’s disappearance and does his best to preserve the girl’s body, in order to achieve a perverse form of domestic bliss with her.

Despite his best efforts, of course, the body begins to decay, and so does Jonathan’s psyche.

We also come to learn, through flashbacks sprinkled throughout the narrative, the roots of Jonathan’s psychological issues.

An accomplished, engrossing horror-film-cum-art-house-drama, Decay is far from perfect, but maintains interest from beginning to end with a very limited premise and storyline, and that ain’t no mean feat.  

The main credit must go to writer/director Joseph Wartnerchaney, who mines potentially  repulsive, off-putting material to craft an effective character study. At times the direction and editing evoke classic David Lynch, and the writing has some of the evocative, macabre insights of Poe.

Wartnerchaney also (wisely) avoids being TOO gross (though there are moments of…yecccchhh…) and too pretentious, as well. Upon initial viewing, I wasn’t crazy about the ending, but it’s grown on me, and feels of a piece with the rest of the film.

Credit must also go to the lead performance by Rob Zabrecky, who once sang lead for the indie band Possum Dixon.  It’s an effective turn here that absolutely evokes (whether intended or not) Anthony Perkins in Psycho, without feeling like homage or theft.

The rest of the cast runs the gamut from solid to not-so-hot, but nothing truly damaging there (positive mention must be made of Hannah Barron’s thankless role as a corpse; between her eerie stillness and the excellent make-up, the corpse appears all-too-real, and makes Jonathan’s delusion that much creepier).

Also, a commendable score by Michael Shaieb, which is impressively varied: by turns suspenseful, discordant, playful and even romantic (there’s a tender – if sick – sequence during which the music has a lovely, romantic lilt).  Also, Wartnerchaney, in addition to the aforementioned “Escape”, employs a handful of well-picked and –placed songs throughout the film (though Decay may kill your interest in ever listening to the standard, “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, ever again).

It should be obvious that Decay is not for everyone, but for adventurous horror fans, or those interested in a creepy character study that is a bit off the beaten track, the film is flawed but well worthwhile.

Decay is now playing in limited release and On Demand

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