Desolation

After being whisked away to Los Angeles by a handsome Hollywood star, Katie is left alone in his apartment, where strange and scary things begin to happen.

Katie (Dominik García-Lorido) and her coworker/bestie Debbie (Ninja N. Devoe) work and chit chat and a hotel in New York when movie star Jay (Brock Kelly) checks in. He is shooting a movie on location in their little town and lucky them, has a room there. Debbie, who I might add, has the best lines in the film, is a big fan of Jay, while Katie is less interested. You know where this is headed, yet Desolation doesn’t care. You will have to wait a good ten minutes until the movie catches up with you.

Of course, Katie randomly chats up Jay and next thing you know they have hit it off. The two become inseparable, with Jay inviting Katie to set, and then to his room each day afterward. The shoot ends and Jay impulsively invites Katie to leave with him to stay in Los Angeles. She drops everything, quits her job, and flies west with the movie star she barely knows.

Arriving at his Jay’s apartment building the two are greeted by the creepy AF Father Bill (Raymond J. Barry). After a tense elevator ride with the priest, Katie notices that while the addresses for each of the apartments are made up of random numbers, Jay’s has none whatsoever. Of course, once she is inside his lavish loft apartment, and has met his cat, she is good to go. Everything seems fine… for a clueless fool that is.

“Katie notices that the addresses for each of the apartments are made up of random numbers…”

Katie is too dazzled by rooftop pool parties, glamour, and her new life in sunny California to be picking up on the warning signs that writers Craig Walendziak and Matthew McCarty, keep heavy-handedly dropping at her feet. In one scene Katie literally sees a man outside her living room window shooting video of her from the ledge outside. The man slowly, comically backs away as Jay enters and acts like he noticed nothing. In another scene, Katie meets a neighbor who does webcam work. Said neighbor keeps asking Katie what her rate is. In still another scene, Katie happens upon a partially opened door and spies a man behind a bank of monitors trained on different parts of the building and its residents.

Where is this headed? Well, Jay gets a call for work and has to leave for a few days. That leaves Katie, in his place, alone, with weird things happening, batshit people all around her, and the constant feeling of being watched. Soon Katie tries reaching her friend Debbie and the numbers have been all changed. She begins seeing strange things, hearing even stranger things, and her mental state begins its rapid decline.

“…Barry being a creepy stand out as the lecherous Father Bill.

When writing my reviews I try, ever so carefully, to give you dear readers just enough information to understand the premise, all the while carefully avoiding spoilers. However, Desolation is a glossy pastiche of so many other films that have done the same story so much better. Girl in a strange place, isolated, is driven to insanity by unseen forces. The slight difference here is in the “why”. While director David Moscow shoots a very polished-looking movie, he never trusts the audience to put the more abstract notions together. Every plot point is so thoroughly articulated, every mysterious moment so exhaustively studied, that there is absolutely no room for alternative explanations. While this might be helpful for the less engaged, the rest of us have already called things out, waiting patiently for the movie to catch up.

The performances are uniformly solid, with Barry being a creepy stand out as the lecherous Father Bill. His presence made my skin crawl. Another noteworthy performance came from Devoe, as Debbie. The camera loves this woman and she has a delicious presence on screen.

In the end, I will just say this. This is Gaslight, Sliver, and The Truman Show rolled into one, but with less plot. If Desolation had just assumed that its audience needed less explanation while doling out the mystery, this could have been a savvy update. Instead, the film just comes off as contrived. This isn’t a bad film, it’s just not all that great.

Desolation (2017) Directed by: David Moscow. Written by:  Craig Walendziak, Matthew McCarty.  Staring: Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik García-Lorido,

Desolation is worth VOD (**).

Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)

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