Review by Cole Groth
If I had to choose genres of film that I enjoy the most, horror would fall to the bottom. I find that, too often, horror films end up being massive disappointments, whether from their gut-wrenching endings (demonstrated frequently in the Saw series), my general dislike of gore, or a low production budget leading to lots of technical failures. However, I try not to judge films from their covers, which led me to Shudder’s latest horror flick, Revealer, which delivered an exceptionally fascinating film on what appears to be a low budget.
The basic premise of the film follows a hot-tempered stripper, Angie (Caito Aase), who is forced to survive the apocalypse with a judgmental Christian, Sally (Shaina Schrooten). The premise is undeniably interesting, and the script, written by Michael Moreci and Tim Seeley, effectively explores every avenue possible within a brisk 86-minute runtime. Both Aase and Schrooten are extraordinarily effective within the confines of the peep show where most of the action takes place. While there are certainly moments that push their acting abilities to the limits, I don’t have many complaints.
At times, this movie is funny — it's ridiculously campy — but it consistently holds up as a solid horror flick with lots of tension. I haven't seen enough campy films to be a great judge of the subgenre, but I enjoyed how over-the-top the gore was and how unbelievably strange it was at times. The gore isn't quite gross enough to feel unwarranted, but it got the job done, making me squirm several times. The set design is a key element because while there are only a few sets, each one feels unique and fascinating. It’s not quite expansive enough to feel like it doesn’t take place on a set, but they’re still interesting enough to serve as a visual spectacle.
Beyond the horror elements that are done fairly well, this is a film about religion. Set in the '80s (with plenty of references to prove it), the script spends a lot of time focusing on how religion impacts society and criticizing judgmental Christians while also analyzing the complex dynamics between religious and irreligious people. Now, there are plenty of moments where it feels obnoxious and preachy, but there were some very interesting conversations between the two leads that were excellent insights into both perspectives. Speaking of the character dynamic, one of my bigger issues with the film was the constant back and forth between Angie and Sally. It’s frustrating to see the two survive some crazy attack only to start arguing about the minutiae of why these attacks are happening. Even though it felt preachy, I still believe that Bracey did an excellent job developing the two characters with every moment he got. Even though I didn’t care much for either of the two at the beginning, I found myself cheering at every victory they scored by the end of the film. There are some pretty neat twists and turns, and I was rooting for Angie and Sally every step of the way.
Backing up the solid cinematography, acting, and the script is a beautiful score. Alex Cuervo does a phenomenal job at using synths to create an ethereal score that can effortlessly shift from ridiculous violence to moments of calm reflection. The pacing is good enough to keep me interested throughout the whole film, and the score helps because it always feels like it’s a necessary addition. On a visual level, there’s a lot of room for improvement, but it doesn’t quite seem like the vibe that director Luke Boyce was going for. He embraces the campiness to make a film that serves as both a decent meditation on religion, a solid horror/thriller, and an occasionally hilarious piece of media.
If you’re a serious fan of horror, Revealer might scratch whatever itch for scares you have, but I didn’t find many genuine scares. It doesn’t feel very sanitized, but it’s not hard to see that Bracey sacrificed some of the horror elements for conversation-based moments. I adored the villain's design but found myself disappointed with how little screen time he got. Even running at 86-minutes, this film has a disappointingly low horror-to-time ratio and would be better off if it was a bit more aggressive. Still, though, I think that this worked very well as a Shudder original as a whole. I’d recommend this film to most horror fans, whether you’re a veteran scare enthusiast or a newbie looking to get into one of the most creative genres of film (even if I’m not the hugest fan of it).
Revealer will release to Shudder on June 23.