There was a film I reviewed a bit ago entitled "13 Seconds", in which your typical horror genre gets a confusing twist ending coupled with horrid acting and a bland plot. As you can tell, I wasn't a fan of this film and was momentarily turned away from cheap horror movies. "13 Seconds" garnered several awards, is recognized in the film community, but for me was just a sloppy film with the irritable inconsistent voice dub. I think that is what harmed this film the most but then I gave up on my plight to avoid cheap horror films and decided to watch the equally low-budget horror/suspense/thriller film "The Attic Expeditions", and I must admit, I was rejuvenated. This film was a breath of confusing fresh air. From the sporadic, yet strong, opening, through the rest of this nonconsecutive film about magik (with a "K"), the philosophy of modern medicine, and perhaps love, I was hooked. From the films that I have watched lately, this was one that I was eager to start from the beginning and watch again. While I cannot say that director Jeremy Kasten has created a flawless film, he has impressed me by giving us a strong story with a limited budget. This was a film obviously loved by everyone involved and in my eyes has the ability to become a cult classic if watched by an open-mind audience.
We follow the story of Trevor Blackburn, who may or may not have killed his fiancé while performing a magik ritual. Due to possible insanity, he is operated on and forced to recuperate in a facility simply called "House of Love". It is in this "house" that Trevor continues to have flashbacks coupled with nightmares, coupled with sudden murders of the other tenants. He is observed, from a distance through television monitors, by a Dr. Eck (played sinisterly by Jeffrey Combs) and his associate, Dr. Coffee (played by Ted Raimi). This give us the impression that perhaps this is not the place we assume, and that it is just a set-up by Eck for a more dutiful purpose. Then, quite classically, as we think we know the truth to this film, director Kasten gives us one last push of the unknown and before the screen our minds are shattered.
I think what appealed to me the most was that albeit this was a very low-budget film, the creators did everything possible to make this less cheap and more detail oriented. I loved the visual style of this film. The way that our characters acted, the way the interacted with each other, and their deadpan ability to bring the unknown to the surface. It was as if I was watching "Evil Dead" for the first time (not that I want to draw similarities it was just a similar viewing experience). There were elements of Gilliam, mixed with Raimi, mixed with Nolan all rolled together. Although the international name for this film is "Memento 2", please do not connect the two. This film stands on its own. Kasten assembled a flawless cast with a surprising turn from Seth Green (playing a very Patrick Bateman character) and the always fun Jeffrey Combs. I even enjoyed the Kyle MacLachlan-esquire style of Andras Jones then there was Ted Raimi, whom didn't almost fit within this film, but still made it fun to see him sweat. Alas, those eager to see Alice Cooper, he was only in it for a brief moment, though the special features claim he was a valuable asset to the production. I didn't see it. With this seemingly strong cast in place, it was up to the storyteller to get the rest in motion and it happens successfully.
"The Attic Expeditions" is not a one-time-viewing film. I think what makes me rave so much about this film is the way the story was told, out of context, out of consecutive order, out of sanity. You cannot make an assumption about this film from just one viewing, one must go back rewatch, and enjoy. I will say this much, it is not a film for everyone. The scenes can be unsettling and a bit disturbing since you do not quite fully know if he is in his mind or in ours. Rather disturbing actually. Kasten plays not only with the character's minds, but also with ours. "The Attic Expeditions" is one of those films that leaves the room either going, "gosh that was horrible", or wide open for discussion. For me, I needed someone to talk to. I wasn't sure what was real, and what was in Trevor's mind. That is what makes this film stand out. While there were some shots of a boom in some scenes, but again, that is what makes this low-budget film even better. Concentrate on what you cannot comprehend, and this will be a phenomenal film for you.
Overall, I gotta say that after a slew of mediocre Hollywood budget films, this was a volatile breath of fresh air. I challenge anyone that dislikes this film to ask "why" -- is it because you didn't understand the story or because it was cheaper than the mass produced films. With a film like "The Attic Expeditions", more chances are taken the risks are higher, and the final product is worth a second viewing. As others have quoted, and I believe them, this is a horror film for those of us that pride ourselves on intelligence. It is smart, challenging, and grossly entertaining. I don't mind calling this film cheap because it entertained me mentally, and I will go back to rewatch to see if a second viewing would un-muddle the questions looming in my mind. I was impressed.
If I went insane, I would definitely choose Dr. Eck to ensure my return of sanity!
Grade: **** out of *****