Directed by Joseph Wartnerchaney.
Starring Hannah Barron, Jackie Hoffman, Lisa Howard, Elisha Yaffe, and Rob Zabrecky.
Jonathon is a recluse. One afternoon he finds a young woman is lurking around in his cellar. Unfortunately, due to a misstep, the woman ends up dead. Jonathon, rather than reporting it, is happy to have some company, and does his best to take care of the decaying body.
Based on a true story, the film follows Jonathon’s (Rob Zabrecky) reclusive OCD lifestyle; he cleans a seemingly abandoned theme park, he is visited and cared for by his neighbour (Jackie Hoffman), and he maintains a strict routine of a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a daily dosage of psychiatric medicine. The introduction of these facets oscillates from clunky exposition to organic development. In the opening credits, the film nicely contrasts Jonathon’s clinical behaviour against shots of water sprinkling on petals to convey this difference between the mechanical and the organic (the petals take on a greater significance later in the narrative). However, the first interaction between him and his neighbour is crammed with clunky exposition, and it is noticeably jarring. In other words, Joseph Wartnerchaney, in his directorial debut, is definitely a visual filmmaker.
The arrival of Katlyn (Hannah Barron) jars Jonathon’s routine who finds solace in her decaying presence. It is in this relationship that Jonathon’s disturbed psychosis begins to manifest as his once repressed issues come to the fore. The film flashes back intermittently to show his temperamental relationship with his mysophobic mother (Lisa Howard), which is to highlight where Jonathon’s early OCD signs derive from as well as his damaged interpersonal skills. Akin to the early scenes with his neighbour the dialogue his mother espouses and their respective situations are oversimplified; she sways from an overbearing carer to a religious fanatic to a neglectful mother – it’s almost as though the film wanted to cover every villainous mother cliché possible. Nonetheless, the crisp cinematography by Chuck F. Fryberger compliments notable visual choices by Wartnerchaney; particularly a creepy childhood scene at the fairground whereby the mother’s paranoia begins to warp Jonathon’s young susceptible mind.
Rob Zabrecky’s slow degradation from a restrained, albeit awkwardly isolated, performance into something ugly is where the gems of this film lie. In battling with these personal demons and his inability to forge meaningful relationships – his co-worker (Elisha Yaffe) is the closest, but that is comprised entirely of the co-worker in long monologues of his sexual encounters – the breakdowns become increasingly worrying. Wartnerchaney’s decision to make this film a character study provides Zabrecky the space to explore Jonathon’s disturbing mental state, and to express the damage that such a lonely existence can have on oneself, and on others. However, at a 100 minute runtime this can be tiresome for many of the sequences are repeated and extended, notably the monotony of Jonathon’s daily routine. While it is wiser to make this a less exploitative piece – it could easily have ventured down such a route – the finished product is thin.
Decay has the potential to be a deeply troubling psychological thriller. The crisp cinematography and interesting set pieces marks this above many other horror films of its ilk, but the premise quickly becomes thin and outstays its welcome. With clunky dialogue and simplified caricatures – the superfluous teenage girls Jonathon rides by add nothing to the narrative – populating Jonathon’s world, his own breakdown lacks the realist weight the film seeks for.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★