New Horror Releases: Wichita (2017) - Reviewed

The horror genre has been in the midst of a renaissance since the turn of the century. While big budget mega tent pole films battle it out at the box office, independent and auteur directors have found a safe and lucrative niche in which they make artistic and unsettling horror films that have the possibility of resonating with critics and audiences alike, taking advantage of their paltry budgets to create budding franchises and iconic offerings in a field that is overrun with carbon copies and regrettable missteps. Matthew D. Ward's Wichita is sadly part of the latter group. One of the truly egregious things about a bad film is seeing its promise squandered. Wichita has above board technical aspects, a more than competent cast, and an intriguing, if predictable premise that all are sacrificed on the altar of “edge”, with everything being forced on the viewer with a fully automatic assault of mediocrity. 

An unstable writer of a struggling television program assembles a group of writers at a wilderness retreat to work on the scripts for the upcoming season. What follows is a disjointed, shallow, and unremittingly basic slasher film. Trevor Peterson stars as the troubled writer at the center of the storm. He's supported by a forgettable gallery of victims, each of which embodies their stereotypes adequately before being summarily disposed of. There is a hint a genius underneath the schlock, the idea of double realities; those behind the camera and those on stage but this concept languishes while the film tries to decide what it wants to be. 

Nate Gold's cinematography captures the mayhem with constricted close ups and detached video captures, simulating the film's quasi-exploration of medium and presentation. Joshua Ganz's art direction, with respect to the cabin setting is Wichita's greatest attribute. Every angle hides danger and even the most innocuous decorations can become instruments of murder. Everything harmonizes to create a remarkable atmosphere of dread that collapses underneath a pedantic story. 

Available now for digital rental, Wichita is currently one of 2017's worst films. Throughout the film, looming cameras observe the happenings, mirroring the audience's entrapment in a scenario in which there is no respite. Every sequence intended to scare comes off as laughable, due to unlikable characters which inspire zero buy in from the viewer, an element that is essential for a horror film such as this. Wichita is a failure, not in its design, but in its presentation. The most tragic part of the experience is the unfortunate realization that there's not even anything to lampoon, it's just cold, unimaginative, and downright mean.

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-Kyle Jonathan