Extremity (2018)

A traumatized young woman signs up to be a visitor/victim at an extreme haunt to overcome her fears, her anxieties, and her past.

Written by David Bond and Scott Swan and directed by Anthony DiBlasi, Extremity takes a look into extreme haunts, how some operate, why some people may be interested in running them and in going to them. The phenomenon was explored in the documentary Haunters: The Art of the Scare and here it’s dramatized to bring a compelling story that can easily fall into horror on multiple levels. The writing and directing for Extremity are well-done and the interest in the explored themes seems genuine and not solely done for shock effect. The film does have a few mostly shocking moments but it is much more about the characters and their motivations than about attempting Hostel-like levels of torture porn which works for some movies but would have felt wrong here. Extremity is not about the body count but about fear and trauma on a more psychological level.

Evolving in this environment is a slew of people on both sides of the haunt. Playing the lead is Dana Hollenbach (credited on IMDB and other sites as Dana Christina) as Allison, a young woman who decides to use the extreme haunt as a way to fight and defeat her fears and PTSD. Hollenbach plays her as fairly stubborn, a young, hardened woman who has seen more than her fair share of abuse in her life. She plays her also as a flawed, vulnerable woman while keeping an edge of badass to her up until she needs to be full on strong badass, at which point her arc gets more interesting and her acting follows along with it. Playing the leader on the haunters’ side is Chad Rook as Bob (Red Skull). Rook plays his character as a man who may just have something up his sleeve or may be harboring his own secrets. As the film advances, his character opens up a bit and so does his performance, evolving from almost one dimensional to a more human character and interpretation. Giving interesting performances that should not be spoiled too much as J. Larose as Phil, Ashley Smith as Nell, and Dylan Sloane as Zachary, both doing good work with their parts and adding interest to the story. Lastly, horror fans should have fun spotting genre regulars who pop up in small parts at or near the start.

As a film about extreme haunts, the effects need to be on point for what is meant to be real in the very least, adding realistic effects in the haunt parts, the meant to be fake, blurs the lines and makes it harder to tell which is meant to be fake and which is meant to be real for the characters involved. Here the effects are done under special makeup effects supervisor Yoshihiro Nishimura who horror fans know as the director of splatterific films such as Meatball Machine Kodoku, Helldriver, and Mutant Girl Squad. His work is properly juicy and realistic for the film’s needs and his cameo in the film itself it fun to watch.

Filming all of this is the cinematography by Scott Winig which shoots this as a more straight up horror film as opposed to a found footage film which it could easily have been and thankfully is not. The film looks good and except for a few scenes here and there that are found footage in style, the rest of the film is easy to see and easy to follow while also giving some nice sweeping shots, especially in the exteriors.

Extremity is an somewhat thoughtful horror film as it explores themes of abuse, neglect, overcoming one’s fears and past, trauma, and how to use the latter for one’s own benefit. The acting sells the film and the directing takes it where it needs to go without going too far and risking going in exploitive and torture porn territory. Of course, there is some tough stuff to watch in here, but it makes sense in context and in terms of the story. Also, that mask, in the film and on the poster, is some amazing work. It’s release just before Halloween is perfect as it will make a good complement to all the other haunted houses/haunters films out there while giving a newer angle on things.

Out in select theaters September 28th and on VOD on October 2nd.