Guest Review: 'Removal'

The latest guest article is a review from my British pal, Bradley Hadcroft. The indie thriller Removal hit DVD this past January, and Bradley spoke with director Nick Simon and producer Thomas Mahoney who gave him some inside info on the film. Check out his review below. -Heather

By: Bradley Hadcroft

Horror-thriller Removal is very much a product of the world-renowned AFI Conservatory whose alumni boasts such talents as Aronofsky, Malik and Lynch. Director Nick Simon and producer Thomas Mahoney met whilst studying there and collaborated on every short film they made. Two such projects were thesis shorts “The 7th Claus” and “Buckets” both of which enjoyed strong festival runs. The core team responsible for the former went on to make the short “Shadow Play” which consequently matured into the feature Removal. This was an important part of the process as Nick Simon explains: “Having made the short of 'Shadow Play' really helped us get financing. Especially since people could see what the film was going to be. What it would look like. The tone. The score. Etc.” 

Both the much-revered reputation of the AFI and the import of a team comfortable in working together are evident in the quality and talent showcased in Removal. Like most horror thrillers, the less knowledge in terms of its plot the better as twists and turns are part of the natural cinematic road map of the genre, so I won’t be giving much away here. Suffice to say, it is a Gothic-inspired treatment of isolation and post-traumatic mental breakdown. 

The cast do great work with a muscular and economic script and the acting is definitely one of the stronger suits of the film. Oz Perkins (Dead and Breakfast) and Mark Kelly (Mad Men) carry the proceedings for long stretches, dealing brilliantly with the mischievous humour and Machiavellian shifts in tone. Their curt interplay put me in mind of the lead performances in another much ignored indie thriller, The Perfect Host

It’s actually quite the compliment when Oscar nominee Elliot Gould (M.A.S.H.) weighs in with a cameo and doesn’t strand the rest of your cast. Except of course an outrageously fully-clothed Kelly Brook who wanders into the film for the length of time it takes Judi Dench to win an Oscar. As always she makes for great screen candy and the director clearly enjoyed working with her as he explains: “She is a wonderful person and it was really great to meet her and work with her. She is so nice.” 

Removal is never less than professional with its smooth camerawork, interesting angles, and atmospheric locations and composition. Well-timed surprises and reveals ensure a fluid and engaging story arc. Though not overtly bloody, when the violence does come it is swift, brutal and effective. Despite the thick accent of humour present Removal always speaks to its audience like adults, characterised by its clever semantics and brilliantly casual detonation of the C-Bomb. 

Whatever Removal does, it remains respectful to its origins, the viewer, and the horror thriller genre. Yet you can’t help thinking that its unusual shifts in tone and unconventional story development have left it somewhat stranded in a no man’s land in terms of promotion and marketing. The film is certainly much better than its relatively low profile suggests and the team responsible will doubtless impact upon the future scene with greater resonance. 

I for one will be keeping close tabs on Nick Simon’s latest project, a film he has co-written with Oz Perkins and Tze Chun called, Eye of Winter. Nick Simon had this to say – “They just finished shooting the picture in upstate New York. It’s starring Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Alice Eve (Star Trek into Darkness) and Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus). A struggling motel owner and her daughter are taken hostage by a nearly blind career criminal to be his eyes as he attempts to retrieve his cash package from a crooked cop. It’s going to be out this year. I’m really excited by the project.” 

In the meantime seek out Removal if you can, it’s just the kind of criminally under-seen, intelligent and honest indie cinema that made me love horror flicks in the first place.

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