ARTIK is the thrilling and thought-provoking debut feature film from Writer/director Tom Botchii, who has said that making the film was cathartic for him and some of the characters are loosely based on real people. ARTIK will have its World Premiere at The Popcorn Frights Film Festival on August 11th and will be released in theaters September 6th by Epic Pictures and DREAD. The film will be released on VOD and Blu-ray on September 10th. ARTIK tells the story of a very different kind of serial killer who is obsessed with comic books and is trying to make sure his son follows in his footsteps. 

Actor and filmmaker Jerry G. Angelo plays Artik, and as disturbing as it is to watch him kill people in all kinds of grotesque and bloody ways, he also manages to give such an affecting and nuanced performance that I thought about this film for days after seeing it. Artik is obsessed with comic books and is creating a comic of his own, based on his murderous lifestyle. He is also on a mission to teach his troubled son, Adam (Gavin White) to be a serial killer as well. Indie horror favorite Lauren Ashley Carter (Imitation Girl, Darling) stars as Artik’s partner, in life and crime, Flin. Flin is always in the kitchen making a huge pot of stew to feed to the gang of children they keep locked in a shed and forced to work on their sunflower farm. Carter is amazing as the terrifyingly unhinged Flin, and her performance compliments Angelo’s disquieting portrayal of Artik.

The look and feel of ARTIK are noteworthy because a sense of dread and dreariness permeates the film and characters and enhances the story. I was so intrigued by the filmmaking style of ARTIK that I asked director Tom Botchii how he accomplished it. I won’t give away his secrets here, but I will say that he used a custom color and lighting scheme that is ultimately meant to look like it was “run over with a car,” and it’s incredibly effective in telling Artik’s story. 

Chase Williamson (The Guest, John Dies at the End) plays Holton, is attending Al-Anon meetings when he encounters Adam one day and feels sorry for him because he’s dirty and looks like he hasn’t eaten. Holton wants to help Adam and his curiosity about his home life leads him to eventually discover the truth about his family. Matt Mercer (Contracted, The Mind’s Eye) plays Kar, who leads Holton’s Al-Anon group. When Holton tells Kar about Adam, both of their lives are in danger and at least one of them could meet a horrifying end.

Besides the grim atmosphere, what makes ARTIK so compelling is the glimpse into Artik’s psyche. He doesn’t just love comics; he believes he is on a quest to rid the world of people who aren’t really human and aren’t worthy to live. Each time he goes out to kill, he straps on a black leather harness that covers one arm and he’s also putting on the persona in his head. Artik is an anti-superhero and Jerry G. Angelo magically, almost, makes you feel for this monstrous killer. He tests his victims. If they die too quickly, he says they were weak. The torture scenes are gory and unnerving, but Artik is such a fascinating character, that it’s impossible to look away.

Scattered throughout ARTIK are shots of the bright yellow sunflowers growing on the farm and they seem to symbolize a glimmer of hope in a cruel, blood-stained world. The combination of unsettling visuals and an unconventional serial killer who thinks he’s saving the world make ARTIK a unique and captivating film and Tom Botchii’s skillful direction will keep you on the edge of your seat until the end. Artik is a serial killer who sees himself as a superhero and, strangely, his story is somewhat reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, but in my opinion, this is a much better version. 

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