Starring Rob Zabrecky, Lisa Howard, Elisha Yaffe, Jackie Hoffman, Hannah Barron, Reese Ehlinger, Whitney Hayes and Jason Knauf
Written & Directed by Joseph Wartnerchaney
On VOD from April 8th
“Jonathan is a very lonely man. One day, he gets a visitor in his house: a young woman who, through a jarring turn of events, ends up dead. He does not report it because he is happy to have a friend, but now the body begins to decay.” Via IMDb.
Sometimes it’s all in the details. Single. Lives alone. Pale skin. Nervous twitches. Soft voice. Plastic wrapped furniture. Antler horns on the walls. Constant talk of a dead “mother”. A rotting corpse in the basement…
Jonathan has all these things. He’s your classic psychopath, a modern day Norman Bates with a childhood trauma that has shaped his whole life, leaving him lonely, insecure and pathetic. But unlike a lot of these kinds of people, Jonathan does not appear to be a killer. He just doesn’t mind being around the dead.
The début feature of writer and director Wartnerchaney, Decay takes what would normally be a gross-out exploitation flick and turns it into a tragic, disturbing character study. For the most part Decay is a one man show, with Zabrecky doing excellent work as Jonathan. As mentioned, he’s soft spoken, well-mannered, with a thousand yard stare that makes you feel pity and fear all at once. Zabrecky clearly knew his character inside out, as he never breaks and never does anything that seems out of place. His tics and mannerisms all feel authentic, it’s a brave performance.
A few other people populate Jonathan’s small world, but this isn’t about them. It’s also not really about his rotting playmate Kaitlyn (Hannah Barron), or his relationship with her. She is more a symbol for Jonathan’s decaying state of mind, and it’s captivating to see. With beautiful framing, clever editing and unsettling flashbacks to his childhood, we really, really get to understand Jonathan.
But it’s credit to Wartnerchaney and his taut script that even when we think we know and understand everything, more little details are revealed that add layer upon layer, right until the very last scene.
One thing that Decay really nails is that feeling of loneliness and isolation. As someone who works nights, mostly alone in empty buildings, I can confirm that you do end up speaking to yourself, and that speaking often ends up turning into song. It’s a small detail, but it really sold the authenticity. That and the habits and difficulty Jonathan has when he eventually does have to speak to another create such a tragic atmosphere.
The version I watched was a work print, and this created a few issues. Some sound and colour correction was still needed, and the score was temp, filled with stuff from One Hour Photo and Sinister, but I’m pretty sure that will have been rectified by now. I actually found the score by Michael Saieb and Brent Lord on Spotify, and it’s pretty brilliant in its subtlety. I’m sure it works very well with what’s on screen.
With strong visuals and fantastically realised characters, Decay rises above its obvious inspirations such as the recent Maniac remake, One Hour Photo, and Psycho, to become its own rare beast: A horror with more heart than most.