Senese's film is bleak; very, very bleak. From the washed out grey hues of the colour palette to the disingenuous motives of the protagonists, this is not a film with even a hint of light and joy. There are few if any characters that emerge with any hope of redemption as each one hides a secret of some description, some less clear than others perhaps, but every performance comes with a troubled, haunted look permanently etched across the brow.
The central premise of genetic control is certainly an interesting one, but Senese doesn't really offer anything new on the subject. At times, mainly due to the amount of faux news footage used to add exposition and advance the narrative, the whole thing feels too much like a documentary or dramatic reconstruction. The dialogue, which is as clinical as the surgeon's scrubs, adds to this notion as nothing feels at all natural, with an air of stunted discomfort present in many of the exchanges.
Where Senese does impress, without being entirely successful, is in his Lynchian ambitions with regard to atmosphere. There is a heady weight of portent as Victor tries to ignore the growing menace that is his previous experiment; a boy called Ethan who suffers from serious deformity and uncontrollable bouts of rage. The return and subsequent revenge of the “monster” is predictable but you still feel the oppressiveness of the growing tension, and the violence when it comes is both shocking and brutal.
Whether intentional or not, the anti-cloning message in Closer to God is clear but it is secondary to what is an intense thriller with some genuinely horrific and creepy moments. That it is too close to the Frankenstein story is somewhat to its detriment (irate villagers brandishing iPhones instead of pitchforks anyone?) as there is enough chilling menace in the story to have avoided the unnecessary and unhelpful comparison. Closer to God is an impressive debut that promises much from the writer and director if you can get past that bleakness. After watching you will certainly crave something distinctly fluffier... or perhaps a stiff drink or two.
Special Features: TBC
CLOSER TO GOD / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: BILLY SENESE / STARRING: JEREMY CHILDS, SHELEAN NEWMAN, SHANNON HOPPE, DAVID ALFORD / RELEASE DATE: TBC