Few concepts have grabbed my attention more in the last 12 months than Tom Botchii’s Artik. The debut trailer introduced us to a psychotic family, a troubled young boy, a straight-edge savior, and a primary antagonist who is hell-bent on discovering a real-life superhero–even if it means torturing their hidden potential out of them. All of that was wrapped up in beautiful cinematography and production value that seemed well beyond what we typically see in films of this vision and scale. So yeah–I have been excited.
Now that Artik has made its world premiere, I’m happy to report that this isn’t simply a case of slick trailer editing. Botchii’s feature film debut pulls no punches and delivers high-octane terror at a break-neck pace in a way that I’m not sure I’ve seen before. It’s a ruthless and aggressive film that gives its audience little time to catch its breath. For me personally, that’s incredibly refreshing in a landscape where more and more genre films are living in subtext rather than outright horror. It’s loud, violent, and downright strange, and Botchii and team seem to relish in it.
All of that said, Artik’s non-stop, pedal-to-the-metal approach comes with some trade-offs. Mainly, the character of Artik himself, what he’s trying to accomplish, and why largely takes a backseat to the on-screen carnage. This is fine from an entertainment perspective, but that lack of motivation can make it hard to understand why what is happening is happening. Especially if you haven’t previously seen the trailer or read the numerous articles from genre sites on the film’s concept.
Luckily, solid performances from genre mainstays like Lauren Ashley Carter, Matt Mercer, Chase Williamson, and relative newcomer Jerry G. Angelo fill in the blanks when possible. Truth is, Artik is a small movie, and the story of Artik and his family is anything but small. As a result, I was left wanting more–and I mean that as a compliment. There’s a lot happening here, and instead of explaining it all and extending the runtime, Botchii and team simply drop us into this universe as spectators for a brief moment in time. You will have questions when the credits roll, and that’s okay. Some of our most celebrated characters in horror are born in mystery and, more often than not, ruined when placed under a microscope. Artik thrives in the mystery; leaving you covered in blood and wanting more.
If you like your horror quick and painful, then this one is for you. Botchii arrives on the scene with a band of familiar faces and proves that he can hang with the very best of his peers. Perhaps even more exciting is that he is willing to press the envelope in areas where they are not–resulting in a horrifying blend of gorgeous visuals and shocking sequences. Artik is an absurdly promising start, and I feel that his next will be that much better. I recommend you check it out as soon as you can.
Artik made its world premiere at the 2019 Popcorn Frights film festival. An official release is slated for later this year on both Blu-ray and digital courtesy of DREAD.
Popcorn Frights 2019: ‘Artik’ Leaves You Covered in Blood and Begging For More [Review]