Decay,’ the experimental-horror debut of Joseph Wartnerchaney, dives straight in with a beautiful opening sequence that introduces us to Jonathan, a reclusive theme park maintenance man who suffers from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder. The sequence also introduces us to the two girls who break into Jonathan’s house for unknown reasons. At the end of the poetic opening, both girls are dead after strange circumstances, and one body remains in Jonathan’s house.
The film quickly begins to dig into to Jonathan’s character, exploring the root of his disorder by showing us his mother, a reclusive woman with extreme fears of her own that seemed to feed Jonathan’s own issues. Jonathan’s loneliness takes over, and he keeps the body in his house, treating it like a friend, and eventually even a girlfriend. SInce most of the film takes place is Jonathan’s house, cluttered with his various collections and hobbies, the film has a small scale that results in many gorgeous extreme closeups of Jonathan’s flowers, keys, and other hobbies. Eventually, the body becomes Jonathan’s greatest hobby as he tries to keep it from decaying.
Unfortunately, the film’s premise quickly runs out of steam. Decay feels like a one-act film, and the plot barely progresses. Jonathan simply becomes more and more obsessed with the body, but the film’s progression is stunted. Although the slow-boil eventually pays off, a large chunk of the film’s middle simply restates what we already known and have already seen.
However, Rob Zabrecky saves the often clunky and boring script with a captivating performance as Jonathan, whose mind decays with the body. Zabrecky keeps the film interesting, even when the plot becomes repetitive and confusing with multiple dream and fantasy sequences. The film’s somewhat experimental form allows us to really understand Jonathan, even more than the frequent flashbacks of Jonathan’s mother allow. The flashbacks of Jonathan’s germaphobic mother are extremely repetitive, although some are both interesting and captivating.
Although ‘Decay’ has some excellent images, and a powerful lead performance that anchors the unique horror character study, the film’s story obviously strains at many points, like it’s a short film that is desperately trying to become a feature. Although the film’s star and core are solid, it’s easy for a viewer to become lost and bored with its glut of subplots and repetition.