The Horror Zine Review
A Film by Elias Matar
from 2 Red Rabbit Films
Director: Elias Matar
A Film by Elias Matar
Review by Tina Goodman
Elias Matar's independent horror film ASHES is a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of man playing god, or, specifically, of a doctor creating a monster that grows out of control. The sub-genre of this film is infectious disease or zombie.
While viewing the film, this quote from Mary Shelley comes to mind: “I beheld the wretch - the miserable monster whom I had created.”
And that is what happens in ASHES. The film centers around sympathetic Dr. Stanton, who is convincingly portrayed by Brian Krause, best known for his angelic role in the television series “Charmed.” When the good doctor isn't obsessively working to create a cure for AIDS, he is saving lives in a hospital Emergency Room. In fact, it is his deep compassion for his fellow man that brings about the possible annihilation of all mankind.
When a young boy named Jesus (newcomer Gabriel Matar) arrives at the E.R. with an unknown infection, Dr. Stanton surreptitiously gives the undocumented boy some of his magic potion cure, the immune re-constructor. Then things go horribly, horribly wrong!
Dr. Stanton accidently creates a highly aggressive bacteria that destroys the body and enrages the mind. While this sounds familiar, ASHES is able to achieve this plot in a refreshingly original way. This new bacteria mutates and grows exponentially stronger with each new victim and is passed through saliva and blood, so the exchange of body fluids should never be taken lightly in a deadly bacterial virus movie. That's why I paid careful attention to the titillating scene featuring the wives in the kitchen as well as that of their husbands who pass a marijuana joint from mouth to mouth. (Okay, sometimes a doobie is just a doobie!)
Watching the doctor's struggle with the monster he creates and his transformation into something unrecognizable is heartbreaking. His once sterile, controlled existence steadily turns into a nightmare world where the little horrors grow huge and devouring until there is nothing left but panic, frenzy and death.
Due to the talented cast, superior writing, award winning special effects, and impressive editing, ASHES does not play like a small budget indie film. It plays like a disturbing and entertaining theatrical movie worthy of recommendation.
ASHES is an intelligent, realistic, character-driven drama that relies on suspense rather than gore to unfold the complete deterioration of a person of good intent. That's not to say there is no gore at all. The majority of the scenes take place in a hospital (filmed in an actual intensive care unit) and hospitals are inherently gruesome, gory places. So yes, ASHES contains some bloody gore which increases as the story progresses.
But there are some small bits of levity in ASHES brought mainly by actor Kadeem Hardison as Matthew the lab guy. For example, this is one of Matthew's responses to Dr. Stanton's shocking physical appearance, “Whoa, you look like the walking dead!” Although it doesn't sound impressive in this review, in the film, the line works.
The pace is slow enough for most of the film to allow us to understand the “science” of the virus and get to know the doctor. We see his obsessive devotion to creating a cure for AIDS, his devastation over the death of the boy Jesus, and his genuine love of family and friends. ASHES left me with plenty to think about, like the pollution of our planet which led to the poisonous jellyfish littering the beach, which led to Jesus getting stung while innocently playing on a sunny day at the beach.
There is also the socio-economic issue regarding Jesus being was dropped off and abandoned at the emergency room by his sister Maria (Lyla Matar) presumably because the children are undocumented aliens, have no parents or insurance, and Maria did not want to be involved in a legal predicament that could lead to deportation.
ASHES has received many well deserved awards including: Winner of Best Horror Feature Shriekfest 2010, Winner of Best Horror Screenplay 2010 International Horror and SciFi Film Festival, Winner of Best Lead Actor 2010 Maverick Movie Awards given to Brian Krause, Winner of Best Special Effects Makeup 2010 Maverick Movie Awards given to Elissa Prager, Winner Cold Cuts Magazine's Best Independent Horror Feature 2010 Underground Horror Festival II, and Winner of Cold Cuts Magazine's Best Screenplay 2010 Underground Horror Festival II.
See the movie here:
About the Filmmaker
Elias Matar was born July 20, 1964 in Berkeley California. Growing up in Syria, his love of filmmaking was always present. His first film at the age of nine was confiscated by government officials in Syria.
His first project was a short based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story entitled Abandoned Minds. This film is about childhood lost and rediscovery.
His second foray is entitled CHINGASO THE CLOWN based on the ultra popular pulp comic by the same name. This short film is about the war between the clowns and the mimes in a town called Messiah. The film enjoyed an amazing run of film festivals and it has appeared in over sixty venues, traveling several continents including The Americas, Asia and Europe. It has won numerous awards, including Kevin Smith’s Movie Askew Film Festival Audience Choice Award and FAIF Film Festival Best Underground Film.
For his follow-up, Matar wrote, directed and produced ASHES, a dramatic horror feature that within a few short months of its completion has already received awards for Best Horror Feature at Shriekfest Horror Film Festival and Best Horror Screenplay at the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival. ASHES is continuing to enjoy a great festival run.
Elias has also worked as a Director of Photography on the feature film BUTTERFLY. The film is currently hitting film festivals and will be reviewed on The Horror Zine as well.
ABANDONED MINDS, Alternative Reality Productions, short – Director/Producer
Visit Elias Matar HERE
About the Reviewer
Tina Marlene Goodman lives in Boise, Idaho with her human and feline family. She sometimes takes writing workshop classes from the English Department at Boise State University. She is also the March 2011 Featured Poet here at The Horror Zine.