Movie Review: ‘Restoration’

“Another reason to hire a professional when doing home repairs… they’re deadly!”

My very favorite piece of holiday kitsch to binge on every Christmas holiday, is the classic film; “A Christmas Story.” Watching “Ralphie” come of age and finally get his beloved “Red Ryder BB Gun,” as well as be mercilessly bullied and beaten up by the too-tall-for-his-age red headed menace, “Scut Farkus…” Aahhh! Those are great memories.

Why in the world am I talking about “A Christmas Story” when I should be writing about the new horror/thriller; Restoration? Well in an only-in-Hollywood type of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” bout of folly, this film stars, was directed and even co-written by none other than “Scut Farkus” or better known as actor, Zack Ward.

Zack and co-writer and producer James Cullen Bressack, whom I don’t think has any connection to “A Christmas Story,” are bringing their well shot yet clumsily scripted chiller to audiences today. The film is a weird mixture of “The Money Pit” meets The Manson Family. Todd and his newly minted physician wife, Rebecca have bought a home badly in need of renovating or in this case restoring.

As they are made aware by their odd neighbors, Harold and Francine, whom are seemingly always home, that the last inhabitants of their house suffered a tragedy and the husband being left alone, just up and exited stage left. This seems to gel with the couple in that something unsavory happened in their new home, due to the hundreds of toy Teddy Bears they have found while fixing up the place. Todd consequently just found another Teddy Bear hidden in one of the walls.

This revelation comes as Harold played by helmer, Zack Ward, and his equally creepy wife Francine are making nice with Todd in his kitchen as Rebecca comes home from a draining and upsetting shift at the hospital. All Rebecca want’s is to relax and decompress with her man, but the new neighbors are in the way and she does her best to be civil. Todd seems undeterred by the unannounced visit, even becoming friendly with his neighbors as the film progresses.

The film moves on as any horror flick might; large house, shadows, long takes down hallways. As well as the obligatory marital strife that banishes the pair to opposite sides of the house. Now this is where I, for whatever reason, start to notice things that are out of place. First off I am not sure the casting of Todd(Adrian Gaeta) was the best choice.

While he isn’t awful, he just doesn’t have the right chemistry with Rebecca(Emily O’Brien; The Young & The Restless.) Secondly the production design is off. The couple are living out of boxes, there are power tools and two by fours everywhere, yet when Todd and Rebecca have a fight over her new found pregnancy, he pours himself a drink out a crystal decanter into a crystal highball glass and heads off to his study.

This doesn’t play with the rest of the production design. Picky, picky I know, but there are also other clues that the actors are playing characters well beyond their actual age, as much of the dialogue lends itself to actors that should at least be in their 50’s or 60’s not their late 20’s or early 30’s. Now the film, does partly reconcile this in the climax, as we learn more about the seemingly carefree and wise neighbors, but there is also so much to digest in that final few minutes with flashbacks that tell way too much of the story, without which the audience would be totally lost.

A good thriller leads you down a dark road following rotten breadcrumbs, so that by the time the main course is served, you are so ready to devour it that no one needs to tell what you are eating. This film missed the mark on that particular recipe, but it was nice to see Zack Ward again. Ward is a more talented actor than his role in “A Christmas Story” would have lead us to believe. I think with some else’s foot on the pedal and a more coherent script, this would have been a most satisfying meal.

Jonathan Chauser

Jonathan Chauser is a Writer/Director hailing from Long Beach, CA. He studied Filmmaking at Long Beach City College. Independent filmmaking has been his passion all of his life. In past lives Jonathan was a Radio Broadcaster working in California, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana and New Hampshire. Jonathan owned and operated a long haul trucking business in the mid 2000's. Jonathan has lived or spent time in all 50 states and he believes that these many experiences have made him a better writer and storyteller. Indie, character driven black comedies and psychological thrillers are his favorite film genres. In October of 2012, Jonathan moved his family to Dallas/Ft. Worth to be closer to his 12 year old son, Bailey. Jonathan is excited to become a part of Texas' storied Independent filmmaking community. His brand of storytelling is more character driven and lends itself to the independent spirit of Texas.
Jonathan Chauser

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