It’s been a few years since Richard Rowntree and Ash Mountain Films debut of the ritualistic horror film Dogged (review here). That said, I was eagerly anticipating the release of NEFARIOUS after receiving a hint from the filmmaker of what his next film would entail. This film focuses on drastic class differences while also playing into similar tropes of a home invasion as well as slasher horror films. Having now watched it, I can say that NEFARIOUS is a seat gripping journey of twists and blood filled turns.
The official synopsis of NEFARIOUS is as follows: “Sometimes, you have to turn to crime. Sometimes, it turns on you…” When four misfits from the wrong side of the tracks decide to break into a large house on the outskirts of town, they get more than they bargained for and will be tested to their limits in a desperate attempt to survive a predator of monstrous proportions.
The film is centered solely on four “friends”; Darren, Mas, Lou and Jo. They all live together in what appeared to be a drug den or at least a party ‘flop house’. After receiving threats from a kingpin whom Darren owes money to he is accompanied by his amigos on a heist to recover the extensive drug debt that has been racked up by Lou. There’s two other characters, Marcus and Clive, brothers that become important players within NEFARIOUS. Their presence seems dispensable until their roles wrap around a bit later into the film. By this I mean they seem to be side or filler characters, which I can assure you they are not.
One thing this film did for me was illuminate the idea of bringing in a supporting character with a disability. Clive is a developmentally disabled man that is being cared for by his older brother Marcus. There are scenes with Clive in the workplace dealing with the bullying and harassment due to his differences. The ‘R word’ is thrown around quite a bit, particularly by Darren who I really disliked as a character. However, I’m sure that’s the purpose of his character. He’s an asshole, he talks to everybody as if they’re beneath him yet he is scum. We see a focus on the relationship between Darren and Lou but there’s also some sort of history between Darren and Jo. Either way Darren is clearly a character you’re meant to dislike.
This all ties together after Darren loses his job because he decides to steal a communal cash box. Jo, who works for Marcus as a house cleaner, believes she finds a safe code and tells the friend group about how it would be easy to steal whatever goods are in the safe. After the gang prepares for their plan while dressing themselves in their ‘robbery attire’ (hats, bandannas, dark clothing) they take a cab, yes take a cab, to the Marcus and Clive residence.
The group entering the home is where the film shines it’s true blood red colors. After a series of disagreements and mishaps the group accidentally encounters a room that I can only describe as a torture chamber. This actually makes sense because there is a mention of medical school earlier in the film. While I was watching this unfold i couldn’t help but reminisce on previous works by Eli Roth and James Wan. NEFARIOUS isn’t a ‘torture porn’ film by any means, but it does toe the line in a sense. Without diving into spoilers I can say that there are two twists that accompany that last act of this film – one of which I didn’t see coming by any means. During the last act I saw a display of some of the most clever blood soaked scenes which included a genius use of practical effects and imagery that made me cringe to my core.
After a three year wait NEFARIOUS far exceeded my expectations. I don’t know what else I expected though after my screening of Dogged. Independent horror films are my life blood and NEFARIOUS was a needle dosing me up. If you have the opportunity to check out NEFARIOUS, please do not sleep on this film. I truly cannot wait to see what else is in store for this up and coming filmmaker and Ash Mountain Films.