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‘The Control Group’ (review)

Written by Peter Hurd, Logan Gion
Screenplay by Logan Gion
Produced and Directed by Peter Hurd
Starring Ross Destiche, Jenna Enemy,
Justen Jones, Monique Candelaria, Jerry Angelo,
Larry Laverty, Kodi Saint Angelo, Shane Phillip,
Taso Stavrakis, Luce Rains, Brad Dourif

It can be truly exciting to see a micro-budget movie take on an ambitious script.  Eric Stanze’s Ice From The Sun comes to mind, as does Paul Hough’s The Human Race (though I’m in the minority on that one).

I doubt anyone would consider the above to be unmitigated successes, but they had resourceful filmmakers who, having been given very little money, attempted to do something interesting in the horror or sci-fi genres, something other than plonking a handful of kids in a scary house/cemetery/forest/name-the-single-location and having them run around for 80 minutes.

The Control Group, directed and co-written by Peter Hurd, kinda straddles the line between the two. It takes place almost entirely in one building, but it has larger ambitions than just killing off some meddling kids.

Five college students attend a party and are apparently drugged. They subsequently wake up in an abandoned insane asylum and begin to have some very odd, very unsettling visions. Are they a result of the drug? Are they going insane? Is there truly a supernatural force afoot?

They discover soon enough that they are the unwilling guinea pigs in a sinister experiment being run by none other than Academy-Award nominee, Brad Dourif.

This Cube-esque setup has been done to death, but Hurd and the gang at least try to add some potentially supernatural elements to the mix. There is also a serial killer subplot, crazy infighting among the government agents, and some unexpected turns.

So, The Control Group is ambitious; kudos to everyone involved for that. But is it any good?

Not really. The acting is mostly fair-to-poor: there’s basically not a believable moment in the film, though it’s clear the cast is trying. Partially it may be they are just not up to the task, but they’re done absolutely no favors by the risible dialogue.

Thankfully, Dourif amiably (desperately?) chews the scenery and emerges mostly unscathed. But even he (along with everyone else) seems largely at sea during the last stretch of the film.

It’s here that the filmmakers cram pages of dreary and confusing exposition down their poor actors’ throats. I remember during his review of Dune, Gene Siskel said after the first five minutes of dense exposition he threw up his hands and gave up.

I made it to the end of The Control Group, but I threw up my hands a good fifteen minutes before then. What preceded it is OK if amateurish for what it is, but my interest fell off a cliff well before the final credits.


The Control Group is available on Digital HD and On Demand.


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