With the recent increase in the amount of reviews I pump out each week, I’ve managed to dwindle my “to watch” pile down to almost nothing. Although my personally film collection has enough material in it to last a lifetime or two, these are the times where I will always welcome new movies into the fray. The most recent to cross my path is John Strysik’s The Spirit Gallery.
Gwendolyn is a God-fearing woman who’s faith in God is second only to her belief in the power of the unseen work of infamous artist, B. A. Catch. Her dreams of meeting the reclusive artist quickly become nightmares when she learns of his true soul-sucking methods.
I’ve never really been a fan of shot-on-video horror flicks, but I’m sure there are a bunch of great ones out there. After being invited by writer/producer/director John Strysik himself to give his film a watch, I checked out the trailer and decided to give it a fair shot.
The trailer for The Spirit Gallery is evidence enough that the film is a bizarre one. I mean, any film with a synopsis claiming that an artist manifests ectoplasm from his palms that happens to suck the souls from his victims is going to be one wild ride.
The Spirit Gallery does not disappoint in that regard. With dreamlike hallucinatory sequences interspersed throughout the film’s 87 minutes, the films goes from horror to something much more rather quickly.
There is an artistic quality here that you don’t see in horror films very often and even with the minuscule budget that Strysik and his crew were limited by, he managed to pull off an interesting take on various sub-genres.
Like most films of this nature, The Spirit Gallery does suffer in some areas. The limited finances don’t allow for the best equipment in terms of lighting, cameras, etc. Because of this, some scenes seem too dark, while others way too bright.
Additionally, like most low-budget independent projects, the talent involved isn’t the most convincing. While I feel that Holly Riddle Zuniga does a rather good job as religious fanatic Gwendolyn, I was not impressed by Leonard Parnell’s performance as Gideon Haul. His lackluster performance does make it hard to take parts of this film seriously, but again, keeping in mind the limited resources at hand, it is quite understandable.
The infamous and elusive artist, B. A. Catch, who’s work is that of myth, is played by Jim Burkhart. While the character himself is supposed to be strange, Burkhart does a tremendous job of being peculiar throughout. Whether he is banging wildly on large canisters or excreting the semen-like ectoplasm all over his victim’s face, Burkhart’s Catch is something to behold.
The Spirit Gallery at Home
This 1995 SOV picture, actually filmed in 1991, has once again been brought to the masses of horror fans by the fine folks at S.O.V. Horror.
The newly released DVD contains loads of special features, including audio commentary with John Strysik, a behind-the-scenes stills gallery, trailers, and an additional 16mm short film by Strysik.
Additionally, a reproduction of an article seen in the film about B. A. Catch is included as an insert inside the home release case.
If you are a fan of shot-on-video horror and this movie in particular, this S.O.V. Horror DVD release is the version you will want to own!
I don’t see myself re-visiting The Spirit Gallery anytime soon, but it is still worth your time if you are a fan of these 90’s shot-on-video horror flicks.
At best, you will enjoy the film immensely and be glad you own it. At worst, it is still a fun popcorn flick to throw on when you have a bunch of buddies over with some snacks and some brew.
With its abundance of religious iconography and artistic subject matter, The Spirit Gallery is a perfect film to use as an entry in a double feature with another film I recently reviewed, Rolfe Kanesky’s Art of the Dead.
It is odd and it is slow at times, but the film’s last 20 minutes or so dive into body horror territory with great success. The practical special effects on display would make David Cronenberg and Brian Yuzna proud, and are worth the price of admission alone.
Be sure to pick up a copy of The Spirit Gallery today, as I give it 2 crowns of thorns out of 5.