Every once in a while, a truly independent production comes along to introduce new filmmaking talent to the public. While far from perfect, this October introduces us to the duo of Austin Snell and Jake Jackson who have put together the self-described ‘throwback’ creature feature, Exposure. Opening with the tagline “Nature is a haunted house,” the brisk 77 minute film unfolds in an agoraphobic, possession-fueled nightmare.

an agoraphobic, possession-fueled nightmare

The film appears to have set out to accomplish two goals. First, to use a familiar cabin-in-the-woods setup as a vehicle for showcasing their practical effects talent. At this, the filmmakers show exceptional talent and prowess, particularly in the makeup department. But Exposure‘s ambition is not limited to a mere creature-feature. Snell and Jackson also use the film to explore abusive relationships in a way that, while not completely necessary, nevertheless strives to add weight to a movie about a guy who turns into a Cronenberg monster.

Without question, Exposure executes on its first goal far better than it does the second. You won’t see a recommendation on the strength of the performances or story, but the spirit of indie horror lives in these special effects in the purest of ways. Complete with homages to masters like Raimi and Carpenter, not to mention the aforementioned Cronenberg, the film rightly showcases the team’s special effects talent and breezes past the drama as efficiently as it can while still telling a story. A booming synth-score, and solid sound design accompanies the 80’s style aesthetic with a second half full of gnarly body horror and practical effects.

gnarly body horror

Unfortunately, the serious dialogue and attempts at dramatic weight stand in stark contrast to the synth-y, aesthetically driven horror set pieces. Imagine Kramer vs Kramer meets The Thing with a far lower budget and less accomplished actors. The incongruity results in a tonal inconsistency that serves mainly to highlight the somewhat disappointing performances. On a positive note, however, the short runtime helps maintain the film’s pace, advancing quickly through a primarily effects-driven climax.

Imagine Kramer vs Kramer meets The Thing

Overall, Exposure shows flashes of brilliance and creativity, despite failing to put all the pieces together. A rewrite with an expanded cast could have pumped up the body count and provided bigger personalities to bridge the tonal gap. Additional editing on some of the action sequences also could have helped some of the in camera effects flow a little better. Nevertheless, the result demonstrates what can be accomplished with time, effort, a ton of hard work, and a make-up kit. Remember the names attached, as I doubt we’ve heard the last of these filmmakers.

Exposure is available this October on VOD and will air on Showtime October 15, 2018.