Review: Heckle ‘A Slow Burn Turns Slasher’ (FrightFest 2020)

Review by Paul Grammatico

Many people in the entertainment industry get dragged on various social media channels. Being an almost unknown entity in this realm, I wouldn’t know what it would mean to be a target of such malice nor would I want to as I have been either a witness or an accidental bystander of such bashing on these platforms. I think that the worse verbal beating would be standing on a stage in front of an audience. Many stand-up comedians have been heckled by audience members during their acts. Most comedians, being experts in their craft of verbal stylings, can brush aside most instigators, but there are times where their retorts can go too far and end a career (channeling Michael Richards). Being a comic can be a brutal and fleeting business.

In Voodoo Media Group’s latest newest contribution Heckle, the heckler not only berates a comedian but has the mendacity to go down a path of menace and violence.

Joe Johnson (Guy Combes) a popular stand-up comedian who is slated to play the lead role in the biopic of iconic comedian Ray Kelly (Steve Guttenberg), who was shot opening the door to his house. As Joe is on stage, he is incessantly heckled by an unknown audience member. Joe manages to verbally take down the heckler, but he is visibly shaken in the aftermath. To heal his fragile ego, his girlfriend Evelyn (Madison Clare) convinces Joe to go to a Halloween party at one of their friend’s houses in the middle of nowhere. As Joe begins his trek, he unexpectantly gets threatening phone calls from the heckler. When Joe and Evelyn make it to the friend’s house, Joe experiences an unexpected visitor along with various odd interactions. It gets worse as the heckler not only stalks, but becomes a slasher, killing many of the house’s inhabitants. When Joe finally confronts the slasher, he becomes entangled in a web of deceit and his own denial as it is revealed that Joe knows more about the character of Ray Kelly than he would ever admit to.

Written by Airell Anthony Hayles and directed by Martyn Pick, this slow-burn thriller turned slasher is well penned and conducted. The atmosphere is well captured in each of the scenes throughout the movie. Where it really shines is the dreary, dark, and dreadful outside of the desolate house and how many of the characters in the film meet their fate within it. The kills are very well orchestrated, and the aftermath of the kills are quite unique.

The performances are quite good with Guy Combes as the harried, hair-triggered Joe whose unpredictable outbursts of emotions keep you on edge throughout the film. Madison Clare as the distressed but complex Evelyn whose emotional layering expands throughout the film which provides refreshing dimensions to her character. Steve Guttenberg is a treat as the embittered, volatile Ray Kelly whose commanding and unnerving presence makes one not only uncomfortable but frightened for their lives.

The film has some great moments, but you will have to be patient for them as the pace of this film is a bit glacial at the top. Despite this, if you like some good kills and the unexpected twist at its climax, then this measured mayhem may work for you.

The film had its premiere as part of FrightFest October Digital Edition 2020

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