A house which exists in the middle of suburbia, albeit it's dark inside due to its curtains being permanently drawn shut. The group of adults who reside within its walls include a matriarchal figure known as The Governess (Debbie Rochon), a well-dressed gent whose role is The Butler (Michael Thurber), a middle-aged slob named Lance (Rich Tretheway), and two young ladies: the demure Laura (Sarah Nicklin), and the far more precocious Rocki (Evalena Marie).

Together they make up a bizarre "family". We first meet them as they plan to recruit a new member to the household. They have a spare room which was reserved for Lance's brother Steve - but their plans change when Steve's parole request is refused and he's sent back to prison.

Instead, Rocki suggests they put an ad in the local college in the hope of attracting a "hot dude" to the house. Sure enough, a couple of days later young student Chris (Michael Reed) turns up to view the room. Despite being exposed to this openly odd family and having a minor altercation with the Governess - "we don't tolerate anyone who can't control themselves", she warns him - Chris accepts the offer of the room and swiftly moves in.

A friendship soon blossoms between Chris and Laura, much to the overly protective Governess' distaste. When she takes drastic measures to make sure their relationship doesn't develop any further, the cracks in this strange domestic set-up begin to surface proper.

What is the secret that this family unit is hiding, and what does Laura mean when she tells Chris that all tenants initially state - like he does - that they only intend on staying for a few weeks? Why is it that these people freak out whenever their front door is opened and lets in daylight? What's the Butler planning to do with the mannequins he maintains in his room, all dolled up in the guises of his housemates?

Oh, and what's the story behind the montage of footage during the opening titles sequence, in which we see various rooms of the house highlighted by broken crockery, blood stains and police evidence tags?

To reveal any of the above would be a spoiler too far, despite the reveal coming some time before this leisurely paced film's climax.

EXHUMED truly is a change of pace for its director, Richard Griffin. He's the guy who brought us the likes of NUN OF THAT, THE DISCO EXORCIST and SPLATTER DISCO. Fun films in their own right and not without technical merit, but EXHUMED finds Griffin adopting a more considered tone - in keeping with Guy Benoit's smart, refreshingly weird script - and creating something rather beautiful in the process.

Reportedly made with just a $20,000.00 budget, EXHUMED looks superb. It should do, it was shot on the Red One camera - the budget HD camera of choice these days. But it's not just that: Griffin has chosen to make the film in black-and-white, and filled his movie with simple stylistic nods in terms of costume, composition and lighting to classics of the monochrome era. Most notably, there are references to SPIDER BABY, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE and EYES WITHOUT A FACE. Cinematographer Ken Willinger really does make things consistently gorgeous on an aesthetic level: EXHUMED's biggest asset is its look.

Sound design comes a close second, with some really eerie, well-considered noises (distant laughter; wind howling; the impressively haunting score) complementing the impressive visuals and unrushed mood perfectly.

I've admired Rochon previously for her devotion to no-budget genre cinema, but this is perhaps the first time she's really impressed me. She's excellent here, as are most of the cast. Thurber stands out as the weird veteran of the family who becomes instrumental as its caretaker in the film's second half. Nicklin is decent; Marie has real charisma and is underused.

This is best viewed as an atmospheric feast for the eyes though, with a slow-burning plot that takes in familial struggles, dementia, cult mentality, murder and even necrophilia along the way.

It might not be Griffin's most entertaining film, but it's certainly his most mature: I can't imagine him going back-over after the meticulously calculated flourishes of this at-times Lynchian curiosity.

Wild Eye Releasing have done this small indie production proud on their region-free DVD release.

The film looks excellent here in an uncut presentation which respects the filmmakers' preferred ratio of 2.35:1 (even though the film was actually shot on a broader scale). Images are clear and sharp without trace of any ugly over-enhancement, while contrast is consistently strong - something that is especially important in a film of this monochrome nature. Compression is never an issue; this is a solid proposition from beginning to end. If anything, the HD quality sometimes - in exterior scenes, for example, which are few and far between - look so good that it drags the viewer out of the film's aspirations to pass as a 60s piece. The infrequent clips in colour are given a fish-eye lens effect, rendering them soft - presumably to mask their otherwise obvious digital veneer.

English audio comes in a robust 2.0 mix. Evenly balanced and clean, there are no complaints in this department either.

The disc opens to a static main menu page. There is no scene-selection menu but the film can be navigated through by way of 10 remote-controlled chapters.

Bonus features begin with two audio commentary tracks. The first comes from Griffin and Benoit, and is - by their own admission - more concerned with how the film came about and developed. They take time out to point out references to other films, such as TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE, and laugh over the black humour of some scenes during the film's first third, but generally speaking they don't offer a scene-specific chat. It doesn't harm this feature any; it's an engaging, informative listen.

The second commentary comes from Griffin again, this time in conversation with Thurber and producer Kristin Kavala. This is less giggly and more focused on commenting upon what's occurring on screen. It's a wonderfully fluid offering though, with a constant flow of relevant, interesting titbits: it's one of the best commentary tracks I've listened to in quite some time.

A 47-minute Making Of documentary was filmed on the 11-day shoot in May 2011 by two of the actors, and is a refreshingly candid video diary-style affair as a result. It reveals the shoot to be a highly committed yet jovial one, and you can't help but come away from this rooting for this nice bunch of people to get the success they deserve. Also, this is worth watching if you want to see how certain scenes would've played out in colour.

We also get the film's ambient 99-second trailer, along with previews for MOLD!, DROPPING EVIL, THE DISCO EXORCIST, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RE-ANIMATED and TIGHT.

EXHUMED - crappy title aside - looks great and emerges as a low budget film that manages to be memorable long after you've seen it. Mixing gore and expletives with a genuine sense of wishing to hark back to the classic noir elements of horror films from the 40s, 50s and early 60s, EXHUMED is expertly executed in this regard and comes recommended as a result.

Wild Eye's DVD does justice to this interesting, worthwhile film.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Wild Eye Releasing
Region 1 NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review