I think by now regular readers of anythinghorror.com know that I’m a huge supporter of the indie horror scene. For the most part indie horror films are more original and their filmmakers have more passion for the genre than mainstream, Hollywood productions (there are, of course, exceptions that have been some of the worst films I’ve ever seen). But some of the most talented people working in the indie horror scene today (please note I said ‘some’ … there are more talented indie horror filmmakers than just the ones I’m about to list), include Bart Mastronardi, Anthony G. Sumner, and Alan Rowe Kelly. So when I sat down to watch GALLERY OF FEAR I was pretty stoked when I saw that Alan Rowe Kelly and Anthony G. Sumner both directed and wrote this anthology (Doug Smith also contributed to writing the first story, “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down”) and Mastronardi did the cinematography on “By Her Hand, She Draws you Down.” But don’t think that just because I’m a big fan of these filmmaker’s previous works that I’m gonna go easy on this group. Hell no!! Just the opposite; I’m expecting more from them … way more. My expectations were huge.
This is a talented group!! (l-r): Debbie Rochon, Alan Rowe Kelly, & Bart Mastronardi
GALLERY OF FEAR is an anthology consisting of three short films and a wraparound piece that serves as almost a story unto itself. Indie horror actress/Scream Queen Debbie Rochon stars as Roberta Van Houten in the wraparound story. Van Houten is a powerful and very influential New York City art critic who can make or break an artist’s career with the simple swipe of a pen. She goes out to the country, in the middle of nowhere, to attend an up and coming artist’s exhibit. Rochon’s Van Houten is also a huge bitch and is clearly drunk on the power she wields. When she discovers there’s no one else at the exhibit and her limo driver (David Marancik) abandoned her, she decides to reluctantly take a look at some of the pieces of art. Each time she looks at some art it has a hallucinogenic effect on her, and this serves as the starting point for each of the stories.
She has no idea what she's getting into here!!
The first story, “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down,” is directed by Anthony G. Sumner and is based on the story by Doug Smith (Sumner also wrote the screenplay). It’s the slow-burn tale of a woman, Cath (Zoe Daelman Chlanda), an artist, who works on the boardwalk painting portraits of tourists and families out on vacation. Cath is a talented artist who always leaves the mouth in the portraits for last. But once the mouth is complete, we see another side of Cath … one you won’t be expecting (don’t worry; no spoilers here). Her hubby Joe (Jerry Murdock) tries to keep her appetites in check but he’s not always successful. We follow around this tragic couple over the course of a few days and I love how Sumner builds up the intensity in a ‘slow-burn’ kinda way. The performances are terrific, and Chlanda does a really nice job and gives new meaning to the phrase, “Tortured Artist.” She knows she’s a monster but she also knows she can’t fight off her urges forever. And Murdock (who was also in VINDICATION, LEWIS, and the upcoming PSYCHO STREET and TALES OF POE) puts in another fantastic performance as a dedicated husband who both loves and is disgusted by what his wife is. He knows what she’s doing is wrong, but Cath is also the love of his life.
"The mouth is the most difficult part to draw"
Putting the performances aside, what really pops and draws you in in “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down” is the filming style. Sumner creates a dreamy, hallucinogenic tone here that is both soothing and gives the entire film a nightmarish quality. And cinematographer Mastronardi, like always, does a fantastic job capturing some beautiful and horrifying (and beautifully horrifying) shots.
Beautiful shots like this could only be captured by cinematographer, Bart Mastronardi!!
The next picture Van Houten looks at takes us to the short film, “Down the Drain,” written, directed, and edited by Alan Rowe Kelly. This is definitely the most playful of the three main stories and is Rowe’s homage to creature flicks. A meek and introverted high school substitute teacher, Stanley Moffet (played once again by Jerry Murdock), isn’t having a great day (or life, for that matter). He’s a gentle and kind man who loves teaching, but his inability and unwillingness to stand up for himself is ruining his life. He has a bitch of an ex-wife, Sylvia (the always great Raine Brown); students who don’t respect him and taunt and tease him endlessly, the main one being Tee Jay (Miguel Lopez); a therapist, Dr. Wheeler (Robert Norman), who hates him and could care less about his problems; and a boss, Principal Royce (Mike Lane), who hates him and just fired him. But Stanley does seem to have something on his side: A shy but deadly creature who watches Stanley from various drains and drainage pipes. When Stanley realizes the creature won’t hurt him he starts to embrace his new ‘friend’ and what it can do for him. “Down the Drain” then becomes a ‘worm turns’ flick.
You need to beware of the shit in the drains!!
As I mentioned above, this story is the most light-hearted and playful of the three stories. Jerry Murdock does a really nice job as the meek and bashful Stanley. You won’t even recognize him from his previous role as ‘Joe.’ The man’s got some range!! Alan Rowe Kelly captures some really great shots and uses a lot of unique camera angles to create a bizarre atmosphere. We also get a lot of POV shots from the creature looking out various pipes. The only negative thing I have to say here is that the film does get a little repetitive once the creature starts knocking off Stanley’s enemies. We get the recurring pattern of the victim stalking Stanley, the creature stalking the victim, and then the victim being surprised and shocked by the creature. Besides this, “Down the Drain” is a fun little story, and you’ll be glad it’s light-hearted because the last story is intense … VERY intense.
Alan Rowe Kelly goes through hell in the last segment!!
“A Far Cry from Home” is written, directed, and stars Alan Rowe Kelly and I must admit that I wasn’t prepared for what this story ended up being. Again, there’re no spoilers here, but “A Far Cry from Home” explores homophobia, religious extremism, the willingness to kill in the warped name of one’s god, and the willpower to survive even in the face of insurmountable odds. But be prepared everyone; this is one intense fucking film that will put you on the same rollercoaster ride of emotions that Lane (Alan Rowe Kelly) goes on. Kelly is absolutely amazing in her performance. Her role as Lane was one of the most physical and emotional roles I’ve seen in a long time. You just don’t get these kinds of roles in Hollywood films!! The tortures and humiliation Lane must endure will floor you. My gut tells me this was a very personal movie/story for Alan Rowe Kelly, and her convincing performance shines through. This is easily the goriest and most violent of the three stories. I know I’m being cryptic here, but the less you know about the details of this one, the better. But I will say that Lane’s abusers all do great jobs and are also very convincing; so convincing, in fact, that I really hated every one of them!!
Who says the hunter and the hunted can't get along (at least behind the scenes)?
GALLERY OF FEAR is a solid anthology that has three very contrasting and different stories. “By Her Hand, She Draws You Down” is beautifully haunting; “Down the Drain” is fun and light-hearted; and “A Far Cry from Home” is intense, brutal, and punches you in the gut. GALLERY OF FEAR also proves one more thing to me: Anthony G. Sumner, Alan Rowe Kelly, and Bart Mastronardi are hugely talented filmmakers and not ‘flashes in the pan’ who got lucky and made one good film. These three are serious filmmakers here to stay and I can’t wait to see what else they have in store for us. Don’t miss GALLERY OF FEAR; this is a must-see!!
Directors: Anthony G. Sumner & Alan Rowe Kelly (& writers along with Douglas Smith)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars (overall)
Gore: 7 out of 10 skulls (for “A Far Cry from Home”)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer