Jonathan's traumatic childhood has turned him into a socially anxious loner. He lives a quiet life in his home where he takes care of his plants, with occasional interactions with his friendly neighbor and his co-worker. When a young woman sneaks into his house with her friend and ends up dead in the process, Jonathan doesn't feel as lonely anymore. His relationship with her corpse grows, meanwhile her body decays.
Joseph Wartnerchaney's debut feature lands somewhere between "Psycho", modern body horror movies and stuff like "Love Object" and "Lars and His Real Doll". It's a smaller, more personal type of a horror movie that focuses on the tragic life of a loner who grew up with an abusive mother. Jonathan stays away from crowds, but has brief encounters with his nice neighbor who does his shopping, and his pervert of a co-worker. One day a woman ends up dead in his house, and he decides to keep her body as a friend and partner.
Undoubtedly a premise you've seen before, in parts through the above mentioned movies, or even in something like our Best of 2014 movie "Love Eternal" or in the short film format in "A Wonderful Life". The idea of keeping a corpse as a partner doesn't have to be as explicit as in "Nekromantik". "Decay" is another in the line of dark dramas inspired by horror. The horror of this movie doesn't really come from a threat to our lead, but from his mind and social angst. I'd be okay with calling this a horror movie due to how it treats the subject, though.
Originality is lacking in "Decay", but I personally think it executes its idea well enough to serve its purpose. It doesn't feel like it rips off other movies of similar style, but rather that several movies have coincidentally done it before. The character of Jonathan is a believably lonely guy who just wants someone in his life who doesn't judge or put stress on him. One of the strongest parts of "Decay" is, luckily, how he behaves when he is lonely or with his corpse of a girlfriend. Through other parts, such as in flashbacks where we witness exactly how badly he was treated by his mother, the movie has some troubles. The mother character feels lazy and just created to show the horrible things Jonathan had to live through. This includes some pretty ridiculous torturous things that come off as cheap in comparison to the rest of the movie. This goes for several of the other characters in the movie, as they all feel underdeveloped in one way or another.
The poor flashbacks and other characters are also part of a problem with "Decay". It is way too long for a movie with such a basic idea. I don't feel like it should have been longer than 80 minutes, but it goes on for another 20. Much of that extra time is the movie repeating itself or giving us unnecessary flashbacks. The flashbacks serve a purpose, but somehow they didn't say much that wasn't already established. Once the credits roll, you unfortunately feel like the movie didn't do enough to be around 100 minutes long.
The atmosphere of the movie always goes along with the plot: it feels lonely, dirty and simple. It's something that helps sell the character's dull existence. The dead girl is surprisingly convincing and I liked the effect makeup of her different decayed states, even though you could spot flaws. The pale skin, the veins, the slowly rotting flesh, the cockroaches were all very balanced and never felt over the top.
"Decay" never manages to be greater than decent, but it's certainly not bad. There are some things that could have been trimmed and the mother character should have been less of a caricature. The whole idea behind the movie is not original to begin with, so it would have needed some more unique things thrown into the mix to make it stand out. As it is now, it's a watchable little movie that is well made enough to appeal to the general horror fan, but remember that it's unoriginal and predictable.