“Very much a cerebral film”
by Nav Qateel
In his late twenties, Joe is a loner with one friend in the whole world, his roommate Scott. He’s been friends with Scott since being placed in a home at the age of 8, where Scott would watch out for Joe. Joe has no recollection of how or why he ended up at the home or what happened to his parents. That night, Scott persuades the socially awkward Joe to go with him to a party where Scott gets Joe involved in a drinking game. Without any kind of warning, Joe takes some sort of seizure, freaking everyone out and leaving Joe with a bad cut on his hand. Soon after, Joe starts blacking out and having visions. Worse, Joe starts to vomit large round balls of living matter. Something evil has awoken in Joe.
Joe is a difficult character to get into as watching any sort of depressed person with low self-esteem doesn’t normally make for interesting viewing. However, co-writer/director Ken Guertin gives us just enough to empathise with Joe and keep us focused. Joe only comes alive when he’s painting or talking about art, like when he and Wendy meet at the party and Joe suddenly becomes confident as they discuss the painting hanging on the wall. As soon as Scott comes over and tells Wendy how good an artist Joe is, Joe suddenly resorts back to his awkward self again.The outgoing personality of Wendy helped offset Joe’s introvert one and I enjoyed watching how their relationship was allowed to develop organically, otherwise it would never have worked because Joe didn’t exactly have a sunny disposition and most girls would have run a mile at the first sign of trouble. I was amazed at just how much Wendy was prepared to put up with in the first place. Wendy also appeared to have some job that was only ever mentioned in passing but she was either always late or never there. She even managed to find the time to investigate Joe’s past. I continually expected Wendy’s job to be introduced as part of the plot…
There’s been a lot of passion and love put into the making of Ken Guertin’s Antisocial Behavior which comes through very clearly. Guertin hasn’t allowed the lack of a budget get in the way of putting his idea onto film, with the entire shoot, including pickups, taking only 14 days and entirely shot on 35mm rather than digital. That was another thing I enjoyed about Antisocial Behavior, was the use of mostly practical effects with only the smallest hints of CGI. It can kill a film if overused, but Guertin handled all the effect scenes perfectly, thanks to clever editing and knowing just how much the audience needed to see.
As the film progresses and Joe’s hallucinations begin to worsen, it was fun trying to guess if his sudden outbursts of violence were real or only Joe’s imagination running rampant. Like at the kennel where Joe works when an aggressive customer learns his dog has been destroyed. Joe brutally attacks him by stabbing him in the eye with a syringe, only to discover this is only in his imagination. Then there was the great editing by Guertin whenever Joe was suffering his crazy flashbacks. Guertin has already picked up a well deserved award for his editing and 2 nominations in the upcoming Action on Film IFF 2014 where I’m certain he’ll do well.
The cast each does a remarkable job with their characters and Jackson Kuehn with the lovely Mary Elizabeth Boylan displaying an unlikely yet sublime chemistry that worked well on camera. Kuehn had his Joe character down well, keeping the audience at a certain distance, which reflected his treatment of Wendy. The importance of this does eventually become apparent. Mary Elizabeth Boylan was an absolute joy to watch perform and her Wendy character lit up every scene she appeared in. Between Guertin’s direction and the obvious talents of his able cast, their job was surely made that bit easier.
The story itself is difficult to talk about without giving away any spoilers and there are some truly great psychological twists and turns thrown our way, particularly during the final act. I can usually guess the direction a film is about to take, but this one had me well and truly stumped, right to the big reveal at the end. Antisocial Behavior really does have a bit of everything for fans of psychological horror, and as well as being very much a cerebral film, it will also satisfy those who enjoy the occasional serving of brutal violence. Antisocial Behavior has become one of my favorite horrors of 2014, right up there with those other films that took me by surprise, Scott Schirmer’s Found. and Zack Parker’s Proxy. A must see for horror fans.