RED VICTORIA (2008)

Witty, low budget, horror/comedy splendor Red Victoria

A reluctant horror writer finds his deadly muse.

Not another movie about a writer… Well, get over it (In fact, this is the 237 such film: http://christinakatz.com/free/236-movies-about-writers/). This one’s different. And I mean that. In fact, Tony Brownrigg’s venture is so good, the clichéd notion of the premise proved irrelevant.

As one of the best opening credits roll, the audience may get the idea this movie is going to be a real nightmare. Not in the thrills and chills sense, but because Brownrigg is the star, screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, cinematographer and producer. Usually, when one sees this, unless Alfred Hitchcock’s at the helm, the movie normally disintegrates into a garbage heap of bad acting, bad direction, bad writing – and everything else. Thankfully, Brownrigg kept an open mind and had faith in his cast to bring it all together. Better still, he thrust his own ego aside and listened to his stars. Smart man.

In RED VICTORIA, Jim’s (Brownrigg) a fledgling screenwriter looking for the big sale. Since he writes sappy, existential work, there’s no awesome payday any time in his future. But his agent, Peter (Joshua Morris), insists Jim write a horror for a quick sale. Besides not wanting to take part in such drivel, Jim never gets scared because he’s close to being a real-life, emotionless Vulcan. Of course, he needs the money, so he does what he can to get in the right frame of mind, but snooty Blake (Christian Taylor) and horrorgeek Carl (Edward Landers) can’t help their friend. Then, one day, as Jim’s desperation grows more intense, dead girl/demon/muse/dark fantasy maiden Victoria (Arianne Martin), ends up a bloody and decaying mess in his bed. And she’ll do her damnedest to help Jim embrace his dark side, though one wonders if he realizes his soul may actually be up for grabs.

This may seem like the foundation to a romantic comedy, but Brownrigg’s writing skirts around all the pitfalls of the banal and jejune. Yes, he consistently flaunts with the tired and mundane, but the wit, comedy, drama and surprises certainly reveal that the man is more of a dancer than a writer. In fact, Jim’s constantly calling out the cliché’s that undermine horror cinema right before the viewing audience is steered in another direction.

The comedy element is wonderful here because Brownrigg and company do not go overboard with schlock and third-rate, low-brow stupidity. Even in the film’s funniest moments, the dialogue and situations are sharp and inviting. RED VICTORIA is far removed from the likes of hokey horrors and pathetic pretentiousness as REFLECTIONS OF EVIL (2002) and ZOMBIE STRIPPERS (2008) – where that element of being pretentious comes from filmmakers who think they are doing something cool for the genre when they’re doing nothing but undermining it even more. Satire reigns in RED VICTORIA, and instead pretention, its more like a close examination of the genre. Most important, the comedy assists in establishing theme: How far will one go to make something happen for himself or herself, even at the expense of strangers and loved ones.

The cast is wonderful and everyone hits their marks. Martin stands out because of her coolness, and how well she can mix comedy and drama while remaining Jim’s beautiful siren. Regardless, all the characters are intriguing and well developed, including the Receptionist (Mary Ann McCarty) and Wolfgang (John Phelan) who have but a few moments of screen time.

Evil John Mays’ special effects makeup is quite solid, as well as Brownrigg’s visual effects. Both aspects conspire to remind us that this story isn’t all fun and games, and several scenes may give the viewer pause as the tale marches towards the heart of the matter.

Brownrigg proves once again that you can create something magical, intelligent and fabulous with a mere five grand. Sure, naysayers seem to attack this film right off the bat, but I can not recommend this one enough for the horror fan that wants a movie with something to say while having a little fun along the way. For my money, this is one of the best low budget horrors – and definitely one of the very best comedy horrors – I have ever seen. Happy Halloween and enjoy!

Other great horror comedies to consider: VAMP (1986), DEAD ALIVE (New Zealand, 1992), TREMORS (1995), BUBBA HO-TEP (2002), SLITHER (2006), MURDER PARTY (2007), SUCK (Canada, 2009) and TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL (Canada/USA, 2010).

4.5 out of 5 stars

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