Most of us, at one point in our lives, just want to escape from reality; runaway to start a new beginning. But what if that beginning is full of problems that are worse than the ones you’re leaving behind? Possibly even deadly? In Haylar Garcia’s new horror film GNAW, which is premiering at the 2017 FilmQuest Film Festival, a woman goes through hell and back while trying to start a new life. The film stars Penelope Mitchell along with Chris Johnson, Sally Kirkland, and Kyle Gass.

The official synopsis states: “Jennifer Conrad (Penelope Mitchell) is a small-town girl starting over in the big city. Fleeing an abusive relationship, all she wants is a chance to begin again. But it is hard to start over when something is eating you while you sleep…one painful bite at a time.” 

GNAW was a brilliant and terrifying film that puts a new horrifying spin on a familiar story. It’s not the first time we’ve watched a young woman escaping an abusive relationship, but this story unfolds unto something much bigger. It’s very symbolic in the way it approaches fear and new challenges. No matter where you’re running to, there’s always going to be new dilemmas, so you must face them. Once you face your fears nothing can break you.

The performances were exceptional by all parties especially Penelope Mitchell and Kyle Gass. I’ve always been a big fan of Penelope via her roles in Curve and the hit CW show “Vampire Diaries”. Her acting is raw and genuine; you can feel her happiness, sadness, as well as pain, and never doubt it for a second. She begins the film as a damsel in distress, but ends up fighting back with a bittersweet revenge. Meanwhile, Kyle Gass brought some comic relief to a very dark story and was the neighbor that everyone always hoped for. The scares were more psychological than they were bloody and gory, but there is a bit of that too. Throughout the film you are wondering where her wounds are coming from – what could be gnawing on her? When you find out the truth, it’s bizarre yet brilliant because it’s not something you’re going to expect, but it’s unnerving none the less, making her and the viewer never wanting to sleep again.

Finally, the soundtrack was enjoyable and stood out quite a bit throughout the film. It even helped carry on the story during some of the slower moments.

In the end, GNAW is a compelling story from beginning to end. It is familiar yet unique with exceptional acting and the scares are jump worthy. I would love to see more horror films from director Haylar Garcia because I think he’s one that understands horror and that it comes in many shapes and sizes. When GNAW becomes available to watch, make sure to check it out!

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