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DVD Review: Vindication (2006)

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What do you get when you cross an artsy experimental film with a slasher flick? Yeah, I know…a mess. But it’s an artsy mess. Vindication is a movie that provokes the question “What is happening here?” repeatedly.

In the opening frames, a few odd things appear. Maybe that’s a demon in chains or something worse. Is there something worse? Cut to a young man (Keith Fraser as Nicolas Bertram) who happens to be, are you ready for this, a cutter. He has multiple scars on his body, and he’s adding another. In the next scene he is auditioning on stage by reciting a Shakespearean monologue. Without gusto.

We learn that this young man, Nicolas, is an art student attending the “prestigious” College of Performance and Visual Arts. If nothing else, Nicolas has angst. He is an artist facing a blank canvas, an actor without a role.

Nicolas visits his despicable father to either get money to pay his rent or live at Dad’s. Dad (Jerry Murdock) lays down a load of vitriol, telling his son that he stopped loving him before he was born, that he is a pariah, and he should join the army and become a man (Dad was never in the armed forces). He throws money in his son’s face and throws him out. Why, we wonder, did Nicolas think his father would welcome him?

Nicolas goes to a park and while sitting under a tree, it bleeds on him. The next logical step, of course, is suicide. Nicolas has a roommate, a fellow art student, who doesn’t find it odd that there’s a box cutter (probably blood-stained) in the medicine cabinet. Nic takes the box cutter into the bath with him and slits his wrist. This scene is nicely done—you don’t see the cutting or hear all the screaming that Nicolas does. It’s all camera angles and music.

The roommate saves Nic, who is rushed to the hospital where the weirdness begins. His life is saved and he is visited by what could best be described as a death clown. This hideous creature, Kon’shuns, delivers a monologue punctuated with the killer line, “Guilt shows no mercy.” This scene, rendered in black and white, is quite good, visually. It revives memories of late-1960s experimental films.

Apparently, once you’ve seen the death clown, you’re in for a helluva ride. Out of the hospital, Nicolas falls asleep on the couch and is visited by his dead mother in a dream (another effective scene, as Mom describes the joy of being pregnant which deteriorated to fear when she began to have ugly visions). Nicolas has a strange encounter with a street vendor selling flowers, visits a freaky photographer snapping shots of a man with strap-on angel wings and red make-up (seems to be Lucifer), and is confronted by a particularly nasty (and nasty-looking) seer who insults and berates him, then demands $20. Up until this point the scenes which could have been revoltingly gory are handled with some restraint.

Now it’s time for hell to break loose. All hell. Nicolas goes to his brother’s home, a man asks for help with his broken-down car, Nic has visions of the clown, and kills the man—all very bloody. Nic gets into a fight with his brother (nicely choreographed), stabs him, and as the brother reaches for a chainsaw, Nic garrotes him with a length of barbed wire. Nasty.

Before the film ends, there is an orgy of violence culminating in Nic slashing and stabbing a roomful of partiers. The audience learns that death is irrelevant to Nic and violence lives forever.

What starts out as a funky, experimental indie, turns into a blood-spraying gorefest. Slasher flick fans who are more interested in carnage than plot, will find the second half of Vindication entertaining. Fans of experimental films will find some of the camera work and sound manipulation interesting, but may be turned off by the explicit violence.

Vindication is not a great film, but it’s not unbearable. The psychological aspects are underplayed while the savagery is the star. After viewing it, you might be asking yourself, “Did I like it? Did I hate it?,” and unable to formulate a satisfactory response. The trailer is not embeddable but is available here. There are no special features.

Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream Vindication? I’m not sure, but certainly streaming is as far as I’d go. Did I like it? Did I hate it? I’m not sure.

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