31st Jul2017

Fantasia 2017: ‘Indiana’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Gabe Fazio, Bradford West, Stuart Rudin, Noah McCarty-Slaughter, Sophie Auster, Suzanne DiDonna, Kadah Binkley | Written by Toni Comas, Charlie Williams | Directed by Toni Comas

indiana-poster

Deep inside the heart of middle America lie many different beliefs; beliefs in God, in country, in justice, and in America itself. Some of those beliefs extend beyond what are considered the norm – the paranormal, the unexplained, the unnatural. This is where the Spirit Doctors come in, two paranormal investigators who help those who feel their houses, and their very lives, are in upheaval due to supernatural forces. Michael (Gabe Fazio) actually has the gift of second sight and the ability to communicate with the dead, while Josh (Bradford West) deeply wishes he does and has convinced himself he can. And on one fateful summer’s day, they find themselves dealing with events that make them question the nature of what they do, and uncover some of the real demons of this seemingly quiet part of America.

Filled with an overall sense of foreboding and dread, Toni Comas’s small-town terror tale is the story of two men – one unable to let go and the other searching for purpose. Together they are the Spirit Doctors, travelling the back roads of middle America, meeting a huge variety of people, and possibly ghosts. For, like The Sixth Sense, Michael CAN see the dead, but because of this the audience is never sure who’s real and who’s not.

But Comas’ film is not just about the exploits of Michael and Josh. Whilst we follow their innocuous trips to the homes of people who may or may not have issues with ghosts, Indiana also weaves the tale of a old man, Sam, who we see drive the same back roads as our protagonists, seemingly on a mission to kill. Yet for all his actions – killing a stranger, butchering the body and burying it – he seems not to be in control of his actions, as if forced to commit heinous acts by someone, or something, else. A compulsion if you will. He shows remorse, he feels regret, yet he still killed.

Of course both these tales are going to come together. They have to, as an audience we know this. Yet when they do the result is as unexpected as the very film itself. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is as it seems in Indiana.

Held together by a stunning, sombre central performance by Gabe Fazio, Indiana is at once intriguing and frightening. The tone is such that what should terrify instead is calming and offers hope – in much the same way that Michael and Josh calm their “clients” and give them hope for a life without ghostly interference. The film is also marked by some of the most beautiful cinematography (by Anna Franquesa Solano) I’ve ever seen in the genre, really giving the audience a true feel of middle America – a quaintness that belies danger; a homlieness that is at once welcoming and uninviting.

And that’s the thing about Indiana. The entire movie is a dichotomy. We expect a flashy film about ghosts and demons; we get a slow-paced, thoughful film about the impact on human life that the paranormal can have. We look to our heroes to save the day, instilled with the weaponary and knowledge to fend of the supernatural; yet we have heroes without gadgets, without weapons, instead offering support and comfort to those in need. And we have a “villain” who, ultimately, may not be as villianous as we’re led to believe.

The very definition of a slow-burning horror, Indiana is less about the terrors of ghosts and demons but more about life. The different way people lead their lives, how life can be effected by death and how life can stop when you lose someone you love… Toni Comas and his co-writer Charlie Williams have, in Indiana, crafted a tale that plays with audience expectation in much the same way that The Sixth Sense tricked them. But here we’re not given a definitive answer about what is real and what’s the truth. After all, shouldn’t what we see be truth enough for us.

***** 5/5

Indiana screens as part of Fantasia Fest on June 30th and August 2nd.

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