The Horror Zine Review
A Film by James Howarth
Director: James Howarth
A Film by James Howarth
Review by Dr. Kevin Hillman
When I sat down to watch Inhabitant, I wasn't sure what to expect. I was hoping for a film with a riveting story and this one definitely has that. It’s slow to start but as it progressed, it pulled me in. Like any good mystery, it stirs your brain into trying to work out whether the character's experiences are real, or caused by his mental state, or maybe by the medication. Stick with it, because once the storyline gets going, it hooks you and it doesn’t let go.
It’s difficult to give too much description without giving away the whole story. You might find the beginning a little confusing but once you realise the story is told from the perspective of Mark and through his schizophrenia it all becomes... well, clear isn’t the word. Understandable might be better.
The main character is Mark, played credibly by James Howarth who also wrote, edited and directed the film. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘ego-fest’ but there’s none of that here. James plays a panicky, frightened schizophrenic realistically and does not make his character into any kind of hero. He plays the part so well that if you saw him on the street, you’d avoid him.
The film opens with Mark being released from the hospital where he was treated for schizophrenia, possibly brought on by his habitual drug use, or perhaps he was just unlucky. There is no lifestyle judgement here. On his release he tries to put his life back together, but his drug-using friends are not especially helpful in this respect - and here the character of Ray (played by Brendan Fisher) merits a special mention for a completely believable performance.
When he shares a house with an alien-obsessed woman, Alana (Jean Louise O’Sullivan) who has models of aliens and space pictures everywhere, Mark begins to hear and then see things. He believes he is under the control of an alien being, but is he? Or is he just cracking up? Or is it the medication?
Special effects are impressive considering this doesn’t come from the likes of Pixar, and anyway too many Hollywood-style effects would have detracted from the story. Watch for the spider-thing though. It only appears once but it’ll give you the creeps. Effects are perfectly good enough for the story. When someone bleeds, you believe they really bleed. That’s not ketchup. The acting is great too - better than some of the stuff I’ve seen on much bigger budgets.
There’s a subplot with the analyst, Myers (Eva Swan) that comes to a head at the end - but even then, we are left wondering if she was ever real at all. There are twists and turns and moments of ‘yes, that’s real’ followed by ‘oh, wait...’ that will keep you riveted to the screen.
This isn’t a gore-fest. It’s a psychological horror wrapped around a mystery. No hack-and-slash loonies rampaging around. You can’t watch this while drunk and merely revel in the spattered blood, you’re going to have to concentrate a little. The answer? Decide for yourself. This is not mindless entertainment. It’s a Rubik cube on the screen and every move makes it maybe nearer the solution, maybe further from it. At the end there is one more move to make and that is yours. Real or hallucination? Mark doesn’t know for sure, so how could he tell you?
When Mark and Alana are in the lounge, and when Mark and Ray are at the cafe, you don’t see it from a mouse-eye view on the floor. You don’t see it from a fly-eye view on the ceiling. You see it from the next chair, the adjoining table. You’re there, in the action, it’s happening around you now.
Sometimes the camera gives you a strange perspective, but only where Mark’s schizophrenic perspective warrants it. Those parts are disturbing. They are meant to be. You’re looking into a mad mind at those points. For most of the film though, the camerawork puts you in the room with the actors. It’s a subjective thing, I know, but for me it worked very well indeed.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. If you’ve become bored with the modern hack-and-slash with tons of dismemberments linked by a tedious storyline, then give Inhabitant a try. It’ll make you think. And that kind of film sticks with you long after you’ve seen it. It makes you think about it during the film, and it makes you think about it afterwards.
For me, it passes the principal test of any horror story, which is: Could this happen in real life? Could it happen to you?
Yes. It could. You don’t need to believe in aliens, you just have to know a nut who does, and it could all come horribly true in your own life. That’s what makes a story scary, and that’s what this film has to offer.
The story is what I call an IWITOT story, short for ‘I Wish I’d Thought Of That.’ It’s one of those stories writers enjoy and then think ‘Damn. If only I had done that first.’ Too late now, because James Howarth beat us to it. He did it on film rather than on paper; he did it without crazy special effects and he did it without mad camera angles. A strong story doesn’t need Hollywood effects and this one is very strong indeed.
Inhabitant is a great film, and I recommend it. I’ll be watching for more films by Mr. Howarth. I have a feeling he’s going far.
About the film:
About the Director
Having consistently landed film and television acting roles since 1995, James began producing his own films in 2000. He currently produces, writes, directs, acts and edits. In 2011 he performed every production role in the making of the feature film Inhabitant.
About the Reviewer
Dr. Kevin Hillman
Dr. Kevin Hillman is a rogue scientist and writer who normally appears online as anyone but himself. His multiple personalities include the sensible and restrained Gutbugs and the sensible but volatile Romulus Crowe, as well as the militant Leg-iron and the utterly deranged Phineas Dume. That last incarnation wrote articles for the greatly missed AlienSkin magazine and takes the credit for most of the stories.
Kevin's short stories have appeared in From The Asylum, AlienSkin, and other online venues. His first novel, Jessica's Trap, was released by Damnation Books in April 2011. Fame beckons, although fortune remains sadly elusive.
Dr. Dume was once under the control of the AlienSkin mother, but now he is loose upon the world. You can visit Dr. Dume HERE.