An ex-soldier with a criminal past takes refuge in the woods. A demonic figure seeks the seed of killers and the blood of the damned to feed his mandrake garden. DIS is an infernal descent into the root of the mandrake legend and a man who wanders too close to that legend and the unnamable terror behind it. What you sow you will reap.
A naked woman is being held captive in a dank concrete prison. Precise lighting and noticeably articulated sound catch every dreary drip of water that pools on the already damp floor. A hooded figure stomps toward her and proceeds to collect, er, fluid from her for some nefarious and grotesque purpose. Thus begins writer-director Adrian Corona’s bleak new horror fantasy DIS. While this will undoubtedly be a treat for fans of uncompromising vision, the more prudish, less patient horror movie fan may have a hard time enjoying the 61 minute film.
“…proceeds to collect ‘fluid’ from her for some nefarious and grotesque purpose.”
Jumping to another narrative, we meet Ariel (Bill Oberst Jr.). The former soldier is a broken soul, fragile and unhinged. He too wanders into the abandoned building lured in by a hooded, topless woman. Yes, there is plenty of nudity in this flick. At this point, we are still unsure of the timeline. While current developments are depicted in vibrant color, we begin to pick up the grim history of Ariel through black and white flashbacks. Who is Ariel and how did he end up in the same prison as the lady from the beginning of the film? Furthermore, who in the hell is the hooded figure at the center of the botanical insanity that holds them captive?
DIS is an unflinching, nasty little mix of mystery, legend, and fantasy that succeeds in tone but struggles with narrative. In these types of brooding mood pieces, there is a savoring of confusion, of mystery. It takes a delicate balance in getting the slow drip of revelation and interest just right, holding the audience in the dark until the last possible minute. Corona’s script is a nice piece of work, yet it lacks a few key pieces of foreshadowing and setup that would really help us understand the full narrative at the end of the story. We are left to fill in the blanks on a mystery that is already obtuse enough, and it suffers in the process. WIth that should at least be commended for its audacity if for no other reason.
“…an unflinching, nasty little mix of mystery, legend, and fantasy that succeeds in tone…”
The lean cast does fine enough work with Oberst carrying the show. A shifty convict at the end of his rope, we are pretty much, offered everything that a performer can deliver. Again, I just wish there were a bit more backstory and articulation of the characters and their respective histories as it would have better sealed the story.
With all of that being said we are left with what could be compared to a large amuse bouche or a criminally small entree. With a small runtime of 61 minutes, we are left to wonder how a bit more or a bit less would have enhanced the experience. That is not to say that a film need be anything more or less than it needs to be, but DIS may have benefited from either a little pruning or a bit more cultivation. As it is, this deadly little seedling will only be enjoyed by the most severe of pallets.
DIS (2018) Written and directed by Adrian Corona. Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon.
5 out of 10 stars