You have to wonder when James Cullen Bressack finds time to sleep. At just 24 years old this one-man film industry has been attached to over 100 projects in one form or another, and even appears to be increasing his output. The latest film on the production line sees him teaming up with the equally hard-working Zack Ward (who has a mere 121 IMDB credits if you’re keeping score) for the latter’s feature directorial debut on Restoration, a film that almost…almost delivers on its early promise.
The premise is a straightforward one: moving into their new home Rebecca (O’Brien) and Todd (Gaeta) accidentally stumble upon and release the restless spirit of a murdered young woman. With help from their creepily over-friendly neighbours (Ward himself and the sultry Schultz) they try to unravel the mystery while combatting fiery ghouls and malevolent teddy-bears.
Great credit must be given to the filmmakers, but primarily to Ward who belies his inexperience to direct with delicacy and subtlety throughout; until the compulsory brutality in the final act. This “hands-off” approach gives Restoration a naturalistic feel which allows the characters to develop along convincing arcs, and creates an atmosphere of dread that emanates from a largely unknown threat. The performances are collectively excellent delivering barely a mis-step, with Ward in particular enjoying himself as the nuanced nosey neighbour; even wearing his director’s hat through the majority of the film – literally.
There are some issues but these are largely acceptable given the good will the film develops in its early stages. There is an exposition-heavy sequence in the middle that feels somewhat awkward, and one that largely ignores the concept of show-not-tell. As often happens the plot also begins to drift a little towards a final act that feels a little too contrived at times in its need to reference earlier events.
As a debut feature, though, Restoration is an impressive start for Ward, and demonstrates that Bressack can also write with restraint. Regular horror film viewers will spot many of the plot’s twists and turns, but in this case that is not a negative. The film earns the right to delve deep into the well of familiar genre tropes for its finale and unlike many doesn’t abuse that right. Restoration may not be a great film, but it is a very good one and given the number of bland and boring releases that populate the genre, this makes a welcome and refreshing change and is one you should seek out.
Cert: 18 / Director: Zack Ward / Screenplay: James Cullen Bressak, Zack Ward / Starring: Emily Roya O'Brien, Adrian Gaeta, Zack Ward, Sarah Ann Schultz, Anna Har / Release Date: Out Now