GREENPOINT FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW! Upon hearing the plot synopsis for Indiana, it is only logical to assume that it is a horror film. But director Toni Comas, who co-wrote the movie with Charlie Williams, is not interested in such genre trappings. They want to delve into the inner workings of people who spend their time living and breathing the supernatural, which makes this more of a measured character study than anything else. But, that’s enough preamble, what is Indiana about?
The Spirit Doctors, Michael (Gabe Fazio) and Josh (Bradford West), investigate and solve people’s unexplainable, possibly supernatural, occurrences. They take away curses from artifacts, put restless souls at ease, and even help with specific kinds of alien encounters. Of course, not everyone takes them seriously, but their clients swear that these two have changed their lives for the better. The Spirit Doctors’ latest case sees Michael and Josh cross paths of an old house. They sense the sinister secret behind its wall, which leads them to a startling discovery.
Without giving too much away, that is a pretty accurate plot description. So, it would stand to reason that their cases, such as a cursed doll, would be filled with tension and dread. But, they are not, nor does Comas attempt to make that happen. Instead, those moments are about how the characters react and what these situations do to them. See, the scenes between what would be the spooky stuff are all character-driven. The plot does not drive the narrative as much as the characters’ emotional state does. This means that while the film lacks any scares, which will frustrate horror heads, it does offer an engaging tale of past sins, the misdeeds done for loved ones, and salvation.
“The Spirit Doctors’ latest case sees Michael and Josh cross paths of an old house.”
Comas uses the titular landscape to great effect as its flatlands, punctuated by pockets of civilization, capture the inner lives of everyone. Of course, there is a bit more to how the landscape is used, especially about past sins, but that would be spoiling quite a bit. So, sorry if that compliment sounds vague, but Indiana’s use in Indiana encapsulates the themes and ideas at play well.
The acting also ably brings the heavy subject matter to life. Gabe Fazio plays Michael as the kind of person who only speaks when necessary. This means that he does most of his acting with furtive glances and longing stares. The actor makes it work, allowing the viewer to understand what he is thinking throughout. As Josh, Bradford West is more talkative, and if Indiana can be said to have levity, he brings it. During a radio interview about their work, the way West compulsively answers questions without thinking, and his attempts to define some of their terminologies is fun. Not to say he does not bring the serious, as he delivers there as well, especially in scenes with his son.
Indiana may sound like a horror movie, but has a more meditative approach on its mind. Comas crafts a scenic motion picture that resembles its characters’ attitudes and ideas. The story takes some unexpected turns – again, no spoilers – and where it leaves the Spirit Doctors will strike a chord with all watching. As a dramatic tale of sins committed and atoned for, Indiana is a visually striking and engaging watch, though its lack of chills may bother a particular type of viewer.
Indiana screened at the 2020 Greenpoint Film Festival.
"…while the film lacks any scares, which will frustrate horror heads, it does offer an engaging tale of past sins..."