31 Days of Hell: Exposure (2018) - Reviewed

Creature Features are always a great way to horror yourself into a stupor. Whether they look terrible, have horrendous CG or are so true to life that you check your shorts, it is normally the one sub-genre most horror fans seem to enjoy across the board. Enter Exposure, a creature feature claiming to hark back to the '70s and '80s vibe and tells a story of a young man’s monstrous transformation that befalls him in the same place his grandparents died. They had me at monstrous.

Directed and co-written by first-time feature director Austin Snell, the synopsis is pretty straightforward - Myra and James have been struggling to get along in their relationship.  As a final attempt to put the pieces back together, they take a trip to the Rocky Mountains to live in the cabin that once belonged to James’ grandparents.  Everything appears to be on the path to improvement until Myra begins to hear mysterious, disembodied voices from the trees. To make matters worse, James is hesitant to share the full details of his family history.  Myra can sense he is hiding a dark secret.  Furthermore, there is talk of ancient evil forces that killed James’ grandparents, which makes it a delectable lure.

Unfortunately, most of the appeal stops at the promise. Throughout the film, there is very little information on the imperative why’s that would help us understand the nature of the beast – so to speak. There is never any explanation for the origin of the supernatural malady James suffers, which is frustrating.This, along with bland scenes that move a tad too slow, makes your finger itch for the forward button. 

Actors Carmen Anello (Myra) and Owen Lawless (James) do a good job at playing a couple trying to rekindle their romance. Anello is pleasant to watch, with her charm and likable character portrayal. Lawless’ only flaw is that his character’s gradual descent into irrational aggression is unconvincing and shallow, otherwise he pairs well with Anello. 

Both actors manage to carry the story well all by themselves. The strained nature of James and Myra’s relationship build up nicely, while some eerie incidents give Myra plenty to stress about. However, Exposure fails to create much apprehension in the escalating tribulation of its characters and it takes almost an hour to deliver on its promises.

Snell’s direction is as engaging as the breathtaking scenery he chose for the isolated woods the film is set in. Innovative angles and use of lighting proves that he is no newcomer to direction, having directed several smaller projects and music videos before. For one, the camera work adds a decent amount of atmosphere to the film in itself. Another pleasure was the old school feel of the film, which gave it more grit.

Apart from the terrible choreography of the fight scenes and the general lack of explanation for the transformation, Exposure has good flow, decent acting and is a fun watch, especially if you enjoy throwback tricks and an '80s feel to your horror.

--Tasha Danzig