Title: Dis

Also known as:

Year: 2018

Genre: Horror

Language: English

Runtime: 61 min

Director: Adrian Corona

Writer: Adrian Corona

IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7304806/

An ex-soldier on the run finds solace in the woods. With plans to end it all, he is intrigued by a woman he finds in the ruins of an abandoned building. His pursuit of the woman lands him in the hands of a demonic hooded figure who’s collecting the seeds of killers to feed to its mandrake garden.

Our thoughts:
I had the pleasure of talking to Bill Oberst Jr. over email and he was telling me about an intense and crazy new project he was involved with called “Dis”. Bill didn’t give me too much in the way of details but I knew if he was talking about how crazy the project was, then there was certainly something to that claim. A few months later it was announced that the same film had found distribution with Unearthed Films which, inevitably, created more curiosity. At that point I finally decided it was time to dust off the screener I had too see what kind of film could grab the attention of Unearthed Films, and cause Bill Oberst to even be taken back by the content.

At a brisk 61-minute runtime “Dis” is a film that is steeped in biblical mythology with themes varying from atonement to rebirth. So much so that, admittedly, some of the greater thematic elements were lost to me with the initial viewing simply because this is an area that I have no knowledge of. Thankfully Adrian Corona has enough foresight about his material to be aware that this could be a problem with some viewers, so he enables the surface narrative to be easily understood. With some simple research though and reading into the passages included at the beginning and the end of the film made said themes more clear.

And overall, “Dis” is a solid debut. It’s a beautifully shot and competently structured film that tells the story of Ariel (Bill Oberst Jr.), a disillusioned former soldier, who’s wandering through the woods with plans to put an end to it all. However, coming across a woman in the ruins of an old building, Ariel is forced to face himself and his misdeeds at the hands of a masked figure. While the narrative is simplistic — the real story being the subtext, themes and mythology — it remains soundly structured in telling a horrific and brutal story about a man being sent into the depths of hell.

While the movie is well made, for me, there was still something substantially missing. Something to really draw me into the movie. Something that could make me care about what was occurring. That may sound strange as I don’t actually have any direct criticisms of the movie; Adrian Corona told the story he wanted to tell and he did it competently with rather vicious results. So it’s difficult for me to place my finger on why my viewing experience was so hollow.

Perhaps it can boiled down to depth of the story and characters. Yes, the movie is absolutely rich in subtext and mythology that leads to the graphic content to have some meaning, but there is no emotion in what is occurring. Bill Oberst Jr. gives a stellar performance where you can easily see the material took him, and his acting ability, to places he rarely goes to. Yet, I felt nothing. I did not care what was happening to his character or why — I understood it, but I didn’t care. While the torture and violence had meaning (or thematic justification, rather) it too was empty.

This seems to be a current trend, and ultimately a problem, with underground horror movies anymore. Whether it’s with Lucifer Valentine’s lazy work, or with movies like “Melancholie der Engel” and “Madness of Many”. There’s a tremendous amount of effort dumped into justifying the graphic content through some sort of arbitrary poetic or metaphysical philosophy — that systematic torture on a corporeal level leads to a transcendental metamorphosis of a character. In the case of “Dis”, punishment and rebirth. Which, out of the movies mentioned, “Dis” successfully accomplishes where the others did not, but they all suffer the same problem. An inability to care about what’s unfolding from the viewer. There’s simply nothing to invest in. No reason to care, no matter how many pounds of flesh might be shed with the idea that there’s some greater meaning to it all.

However, like I said, this is the current trend with underground horror films so I know that there are few who will agree with me and instead more who will lavish the viciousness and its subtext. For me, as a viewer, I need a reason to care — whether it be from the characters or from the filmmaker’s own passion coming through. I need to be able to grasp onto something. With “Dis”, I understood who Ariel was as a character, his actions, and the ordeal he was experiencing but I was never given an reason to care for him or anything that occurred.

Positive things:
- A fantastic performance from Bill Oberst Jr.
- Great cinematography.
- Good location.
- Adrian Corona does a good job of delving into biblical themes without losing the audience who is unfamiliar with that kind of material.
Negative things:
- While the violence is thematically justified the movie is a hollow experience. There's nothing to get invested in or care about.

Gore: 2/5
Nudity: 2/5
Story: 2.5/5
Effects: 2/5
Comedy: 0/5

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