A demented family of seemingly strangers live in a house together, never stepping outside due to the fear of the world around them. The house was once filled to the brim but is now reduced to only a small handful of those who remain. The tension that already exists between them grows ever more volatile when a stranger comes to live with them and disrupts their idea of normalcy.
How stupid will I sound when I say that when I grabbed "Exhumed" out of the review pile that I had no idea it was going to be another Richard Griffin movie?
Fairly to pretty damn?
Meh. I can live with that.
After enjoying Griffin's "Murder University", I was partially filled with a gleeful optimism -- which I'm told is natural for a boy my age -- when I saw the logo for Scorpio Film Releasing followed by Richard Griffin's name for the directing credit. "Exhumed" is another film I went into essentially blind only knowing the lovely Sarah Nicklin and Debbie Rochon were amongst the cast. Even so, I was actually looking forward to seeing what kind of movie "Exhumed" was going to be.
A very strange family, which appears to be composed of strangers, lives in a large home and often refuses to ever step outside its doors. The house seems to be overseen by the matriarch like figure only referred to as the Governess (Debbie Rochon) with the Butler (Michael Thurber) by her side, even though there is hostility between the two. They attempt to maintain the wellbeing of their abnormal family until the let a local collage boy rent one of the rooms. An attempt to bring more people into the home like there once was turns disastrous when his death ignites a bloody game in the household.
What's immediately great about "Exhumed" is that it is strikingly different to "Murder University". Of course having a different writer means there is going to be a difference, but what I mean is that there are no apparent similarities between "Murder University" and "Exhumed". Besides both being very well made. To me, that shows the sign of a good and competent filmmaker: someone who doesn't pigeonhole themselves into a particular style.
"Exhumed" is a Hitchcockian-thriller in nature that's thick with atmosphere as we explore these bizarre characters and the bonds that keep them together in their home. There even appears to be an early German expressionist style to the movie, not only because it's black and white, but because of the importance that lights and shadows play. It adds to the claustrophobic tension of the story, amplifies the performances and emotions of the actors and, at times, even becomes a character in itself. It's a slow, drawn out movie with a minimalist style but it never felt dull where a consistent level of interest is maintained in a rather limiting location.
The mystery behind the characters and why they're in the house aids to the overall interest in the movie as well. Intentionally vague, you're never given a clear answer in regards to their past or why all of them appear to be both emotionally and mentally unstable. Are they releasees from an insane asylum living in a half-way house? Seems plausible but the movie hints towards more of a cult-ish environment. Then again, if it is a cult why do so few members remain living with each other when there is a persistence of hostility that exists between them? Why not just leave?
It's something could cause frustration for certain viewers, but for me, I think that because there are no clear answers given and that their past is never explained helps in the interest and gives the movie more substance. On one hand, you have the mystery of the characters, and on the other, you have the unstable and increasingly violent conflicts that come to a boil at the end.
"Exhumed" may not be the most exciting movie but it certainly is never dull. It's a minimalist piece that exploits the details in the story and characters, and in the production as well, to make for an engaging thriller. The supporting cast does an impressive job as each character seems believable. There are at times when the performances are a bit more theatric and almost over-the-top when compared to the usual standard. They never actually felt over-the-top though; it seemed to blend with and highlight that expressionist style. And vice versa. The slow nature of "Exhumed" and the fact that it's more thriller than horror won't work some viewers, obviously, but I rather enjoyed the change of pace from the usual low-budget/indie world of American DTV horror market.