Someone’s Knocking at the Door (2009)

Description (from someones-knocking-at-the-door.com):
In this genre-defying grind-house throwback, a group of drug-addled, sexually deviant medical students are systematically terrorized by Wilma and John Hopper.  The Hoppers, serial murderers and rapists, mysteriously return from the 1970’s, and bring horrifying psychedelia with them.  With comedy, subversion, satire, and true gore, the students must face escalating attacks, shocking circumstances and visceral disgust.

Major Cast:
Noah Segen as Justin, Andrea Rueda as Meg, Ezra Buzzington as John Hopper, Elina Madison as Wilma Hopper, Jon Budinoff as Sebastian, Ricardo Gray as Joe, Silvia Spross as Annie, Jordan Lawson as Ray, Timothy Muskatell as Detective Young, David Z. Stamp as Fuller

Special Features:
None (Screener)

Written by Chad Ferrin, Roham Ghodsi, and Rosie Roberts
Directed by Chad Ferrin

I was introduced to Chad Ferrin’s work by Trent Haaga; when Trent came to Albuquerque to work on GIMME SKELTER he had recently completed EASTER BUNNY, KILL! KILL! and kept talking about how cool this flick was.  A while later I was fortunate to get a screener copy of EBK!K! to review, and Trent was right: it was a damn fine movie.  It is, to this day, the only true American entry into the mostly-Italian subgenre know as the “Giallo” that I’ve ever seen, a fact that was overlooked in most of the reviews I read of the film that labeled it a “slasher.”  Man, I love that movie.  I think I might have to watch it again soon… but I digress; this was my introduction to Chad’s work, and it was a great starting point.

I was interested to hear that Chad had a new movie, SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR, and paid even more attention upon hearing it called “sick,” “disgusting,” and “the most depraved film of the 21st century.”  Now, please don’t misunderstand: I am not a gorehound.  I am not a person that enjoys a film just because there are buckets of the red stuff in it.  I do enjoy gory films, but not because they are gory; I enjoy films that are well made and entertaining, and if they happen to be gory then more power to them.  I was also a bit surprised by these quotes, as while EBK!K! is dark, it is far from gory.  Most of the violence in that film either occurs just off-screen, is implied, or is shown in near-darkness, which allows your mind to fill in the really nasty bits.  It is this same sort of implied violence that makes the “ear-cutting” scene so memorable in RESERVOIR DOGS… many people that have not seen that movie in a long time, or many whom have only seen it once, would swear you saw Officer Marvin Nash’s ear get cut off.  But you don’t.  Your mind just fools you into thinking you did.  This implied violence was one of the major strengths of EBK!K!, and because it was used so well in that film, I was surprised to hear Chad’s next film being heralded as an apparent gorehound’s wet dream.

SKatD is ferocious.  It is intense, it is unpleasant, it is dark, it is nasty, and it is disturbing on a visceral level.  What SKatD is not, is a bloody-wet dream.  Much like EBK!K!, SKatD takes advantage of the viewers mind and plays tricks on it.  There are a few blatantly horrific shots, true, but there are many more shots that make you think you saw something really horrible… but like with Marvin’s ear, you’ve been tricked.  There is a lot of trickery in SKatD, from the over-arcing story, to the construction of the narrative, to the very fact that – really – there isn’t that much blood in this film.  When there is something horrible on screen, it is really horrible, but most of the horror was built in the mind’s eye.

The fact that the horror is a bit of a mind-fuck in SKatD is very fitting, as that would also be an appropriate way to describe the entire film.  First off, SKatD has by far the most terrible murder weapon of any horror flick I can bring to mind.  A killer that rapes you to death (yes, you read that right) with his 15-inch-long, 4-inch-wide penis (yes, you read that right too… and no, I’m not spoiling much: this is told to the viewer in the first few minutes of the film) is leaps and bounds more terrifying than any giant kitchen knife, any power tool, any weapon of the killer’s own design.  “I’m going to fuck you to death,” Wilma tells her first victim, before somehow becoming John and making good on her/his promise.

More mind-bending then the method in which the killers dispatch their victims (both killers: John’s not alone in his ability to murder using his nether-regions) is the wickedness of the structure and plot of the film itself. SKatD starts with an extended credits sequence that informs the viewer: “this movie is about drugs.”  And truly, more than anything else, SKatD is all about drugs… sure, there is that killer dick thing going on, but in-between the screaming there’s a whole lotta getting messed up. SKatD is a psychedelic horror film.  From this pharmaceutical based place, the plot becomes strange; SKatD turns in trippy ways not expected, most especially in the ending.  I have seen a few reviews that called the end a “cop out.”  I completely disagree.  While I’m obviously not going to be a douche and spill the beans on what happens here in this review (like in 1999 when I overheard someone say “have you seen FIGHT CLUB yet?  No?  It’s about this guy and his imaginary friend…”), let me just say that if you are paying attention, then the end is justified, the end is reasonable, the end is fitting.  That being said: I did not see the end coming until just moments before it revealed itself, and I am completely tickled when that happens… I loved the end.

On the technical side, SKatD was beautifully shot (on a RED ONE camera, so you know it looks awesome), masterfully lit, and was filled with interesting, well-composed shots.  The dialogue sound was easy to understand, and the music was very fitting for the over all feel of the film.  The directing by Ferrin was a highlight; he obviously understands how to both coax a visually appealing image onto the screen from his cinematographer, and how to coax an impressive performance from his actors.

The acting was good by all involved, but there were a few standouts:  Noah Segen, who I was introduced to in DEADGIRL, was great as Justin and Ricardo Grey was spot-on as Joe, aka Spaz, and his demeanor lived up to his character’s nickname.  Ezra Buzzington was super-scary as John, and Jon Budinoff’s dick of a character Sebastian really warranted a kick squa in the nuts (which translates to: he got an emotional reaction out of me).  As good as everyone else was, the spotlight shone most brightly on Timothy Muskatell; after his performances in this film, EBK!K!, and most recently in CHOP, I am now a ginormous Timothy Muskatell fan.  The man is just an awesome actor that can play a super-fuckin’-crazy guy one day and straight-laced cop the next, and be just as believable in both dichotomously opposed role.  Color me impressed.

While lots of bits and pieces stood out as good, the one thing that most stuck with me after watching SKatD was the sound design.  I can’t think of another movie that I can make that statement about. SKatD used sound in such a non-natural, distressing, unsettling way that it really got under my skin and set up camp there.  Sure, some movies use a quick loud sound to startle the viewers… but that is not at all what I am talking about with SKatD.  The sound in SKatD is used in ways that I can’t remember seeing before; ambient, static-y, harshly electronic sounds are inserted in telling moments, and their use over what would normally be heard helps to fuel the feeling of psychedelia and also to hint at the true nature of what is going on in SKatD.  The sound is at once unsettling, scary, uncomfortable, and the truth.  And if you don’t understand what I’m talking about in that last sentence, I guess you’re just going to have to watch SKatD.

Overall, I really enjoyed SKatD.  It was not the repugnant gore fest I was expecting, it was leaps and bounds above that.  It was psychologically draining, it was visually arresting, and over all it was a completely messed up trip of a horror movie.  Oh, and did I mention: in between all of the horrid disgustingness, there’s some humor too?  Yep, even though this is a movie apparently about druggies getting raped to death with Godzilla-cock, there is also some dark comedy to be found before the credits roll.  Actually, I laughed out loud a few times… before I went back to gasping and wishing I had already eaten my lunch before watching the flick.  Overall, SKatD stands as a really well done psychological horror flick that delivers all of the goods any horror aficionado should be looking for.  “You play with the devil… and the devil plays with you,” says Wilma just before she attacks and kills her doctor; you play with SKatD, and SKatD plays with you.  I enjoyed playtime.

Overall 8 / 10

SKatD on the IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1303902/

SKatD for sale: on Amazon.com

SKatD site: http://someones-knocking-at-the-door.com/
and on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/skatd

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