Back in January 2010 I wrote a horror spotlight on Fred Vogel and ToeTag Pictures. In that article I wrote the following:
Fred Vogel, and what he’s doing with ToeTag Pictures, is the most important man working in horror today … Vogel is out there pushing limits and challenging viewers with his flicks. Even the most jaded horror fan will be disgusted and revived after watching just one of Vogel’s flicks. They will feel that there’s still hope out there for the genre.
Vogel made his mark in the horror world with his AUGUST UNDERGROUND trilogy. These films followed around a couple of sadistic serial killers as they filmed their violent killing spree. For the most part there was no plot and even most of the dialogue felt ad-libbed. But then in 2006 Vogel made THE REDSIN TOWER which was a sharp departure from the AU trilogy. TOWER had a plot with flesh out characters and had a narrative. Then in 2009 he made MASKHEAD, another twisted fucking film, that also followed the narrative-style of film making. With each film Vogel made he matured and got better and better.
Now with SELLA TURCICA Vogel has really proven that he’s a filmmaker to be reckoned with. Not only is this his most mature film to date, but along with his (beautiful) wife Shelby and Don Moore, TURCICA is also an extremely well written genre film. This film has it all: Great pacing; an intelligent plot; characters who “grow” as the film progresses; and it has one of the most violent and gory last acts you’ve ever seen!!
The story begins with an average family preparing a homecoming party for Brad (Damien A. Maruscak), a soldier returning home from the war. He was injured in battle, under mysterious circumstances, and is confined to a wheel chair. His mother, played by Camille Keaton (‘Jennifer’ in the original I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE) is the matriarch of the family and is trying to emotionally prepare herself for her son’s homecoming. Brad’s little sister Ashley (Jade Risser) is also preparing for his homecoming while also trying to sort out her own problems, one being her insensitive boyfriend Gavyn (Harvey Daniels). On IMDb.com SELLA TURCICA is listed as a “thriller”, and it certainly is. But to be more accurate it should have the following labels; thriller, horror, and drama. Yes drama. We get some really great writing here as we see how a family is torn apart as they try to deal with the return of a family member horribly injured in war. What a bit of timely fucking writing!! There’s also a scene where Brad talks about all the various medals he was awarded and what it really took to “earn” them. It was a very sobering moment with a strong anti-war message that’ll really hit home.
But just so you don’t think this some kind of straight up dramatic flick, Vogel and team throw us a curveball. It seems that the family was originally told that Brad was killed in the line of duty and the body was missing. They then got another call that the body was found. Even Brad can’t remember the details of his injury. According to him he remembers getting injured and then waking up in Germany. But as he slowly begins to remember the mysterious circumstances surrounding his injuries, his behavior starts getting more and more bizarre. The title of the film refers to the saddle-shaped indent at the base of the human skull. Brad seems to feel that his is more indented that usual, but none of the doctors he’s seen seem to agree. But the fact remains that Brad is confined to a wheelchair and suffers from horrible piercing headaches. Some of the other soldiers in his squad, also injured that day, believe they were abducted by aliens (that’s how they account for the missing time). Brad doesn’t know what to believe.
This is a slow burn movie if there ever was one. We all know this isn’t gonna end well for Brad and his family, but we don’t know how. And the way that Shelby and Fred Vogel and Moore develop the characters is really brilliant. We come to really care about everyone in this film. We come to see just how close a family they are. We don’t get superfluous characters whose only reason for being in the film is to be killed off in some heinous way later on. Each character here is important to the story and we really care about all of them. These are all flawed individuals who are trying their best to cope with Brad’s tragedy. They’re a family that wants to be “normal” and have things back to the way they were before Brad went to war. When Brad first arrives home he looks like shit. I mean he seriously looks like a zombie (pale skin, sunken eyes, etc). I immediately thought we were getting Vogel’s first foray into the zombie genre, but I was wrong … very wrong. The family see’s how sick Brad is but they really don’t wanna face it. But as the film moves along and the tension rises, we realize that the family members realize just how sick he is. Ignoring Brad’s sickness is the family’s downfall.
And don’t worry; in case you’re wondering we do indeed get the patented ToeTag gore. Sure it happens in the last 15-20 minutes of the film, but there’s more gore (REALLY well done gore) in those last 15-20 minutes than there are in most entire movies. Seriously; I don’t wanna give away what happens but it is really intense, violent, sudden, and stomach-churning. You’ll be re-watching the gore scenes a few times to make sure you caught everything.
SELLA TURCICA will remind you of Bob Clark’s DEATHDREAM with the soldier thought to be dead coming home who has some serious problems. Vogel may have been influenced by this film (I don’t know for certain, I’m just guessing) but he definitely takes SELLA TURCICA in a weird, creepy, different direction. No doubt there’s something wrong with Brad and we get a lot of red herrings along the way, but it’s not until the final minutes of the film that we learn the true cause of Brad’s ailment … one that David Cronenberg himself would be proud of (that’s the only hint I’m gonna give you).
Don’t miss SELLA TURCICA. With an estimate budget of only $20,000 you’ll be amazed with what Vogel & crew accomplish. Great acting, great storytelling, and fantastic gore (done again by Jerami Cruise who also serves as producer), SELLA TURCICA is way more entertaining than the crap coming out of Hollywood nowadays. Like I said before, “Fred Vogel is the most important man working in horror today,” and with SELLA TURCICA he proves this and cements his importance in the genre. I really loved this flick.
Director: Fred Vogel
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skuls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer