J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Decay: Love Comes on Rotting Fingers

Like most serial killers, Jonathan the amusement park maintenance man is handy around the house, but he is not so well versed in embalming techniques and taxidermy. To be fair, he might not exactly be a serial killer, per se, but he is deeply disturbed and profoundly antisocial. When an attractive intruder accidentally dies in his basement, the damaged young man rather starts to enjoy her company, but the natural breakdown of her body threatens to end their quality time in Joseph Wartnerchaney’s Decay (trailer here), which is now playing in Los Angeles.

Don’t jump to sicko conclusions. As far as we ever see, Jonathan is quite chaste in his affection for Katlyn Kelly. She and her friend assumed the horticultural paraphernalia they spied in his basement were the stuff of a marijuana grow. Alas, it was orchids. Startled by the deer-in-the-headlights Jonathan, Kelly takes a fatal fall, while her BFF runs headlong into oncoming traffic. However, rather than trying to explain the awkward circumstances, Jonathan keeps Kelly in his basement, trying to preserve her for the sake of the delusional romance he creates in his mind.

Sadly, this might just be the healthiest relationship of his life. As any horror fan will assume, his Mommie Dearest was a controlling, hyper-righteous nightmare. She does her best to twist him into knots during the regular flashback sequences. Unfortunately, his mother’s busybody neighbor friend and his lecherous co-worker are not exactly stabilizing influences. All things considered, it is hard to judge him harshly for the macabre business that ensures, even though we suspect his POV might not be entirely sound.

Frankly, it is quite remarkable how un-exploitative Decay is, given the potentially lurid nature of its subject matter. Nor is there much blood, but there are plenty of wormy parasites that start to come out of the not so well preserved corpse. Indeed, this is not the sort of film that helps boost popcorn sales.

As Jonathan, Rob Zabrecky has a sort of quietly edgy Nick Chinlund thing going on, which mostly suits the film’s tone. He clearly projects a sense of Jonathan’s stunted development, without ever letting viewers feel at ease with him. However, he is regularly upstaged by the outrageously tart-tongued Jackie Hoffman as the scoldy neighbor constantly trying to motivate him to better himself. Elisha Yaffe is also rather nutty as his boastful co-worker, but he pales in comparison to Hoffman. Unfortunately, the soon-to-be-deceased Katlyn Kelly is a tough role for Hannah Barron to make her screen debut, but she is a good sport when it comes to the layered on make-up effects.

Wartnerchaney’s execution is quite impressive, but it is hard to really get who Decay is intended for. It is never really scary, nor does it venture into transgressive sexual territory. It works as an extreme character study and a showcase for some distinctive supporting turns, but non-genre indie patrons are likely to be put off by the cockroaches and mealworms oozing in and out of the pivotal corpse. Hopefully, the right viewers will find it, because Wartnerchaney’s command of mood and the creepily tacky mise-en-scene deserves an audience. Recommended for disciplined cult cinema fans, Decay is now playing at the Monica Film Center.