09th Oct2020

Grimmfest 2020: ‘The Deep Ones’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Gina La Piana, Robert Miano, Johann Urb, Silvia Spross, Kelli Maroney, Timothy Muskaten, Jackie Debatin, Nicolas Coster, Jon Mack | Written and Directed by Chad Ferrin

Chad Ferrin, director of the superb horror comedy Exorcism at 30,000 Feet, is back behind the camera – this time as writer AND director of this H.P. Lovecraft inspired horror that feels very much like a throwback to the the work of Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna – both of whom tackled the very same Lovecraftian-inspired themes in their work.

The Deep Ones sees a married couple, Alex (Gina La Piana) and Petri (Johann Urb) renting a beach side Airbnb only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbours and occurrences. This being a horror film the pair soon discover that they are in the grips of a mysterious cult and their ancient sea god.

I’m not going to lie, after seeing Exorcism at 30,000 Feet I’m on board for ANY film Chad Ferrin puts out; and watching The Deep Ones has only reaffirmed that notion. A brilliant take on the themes of Lovecraft’s work, without ever feeling like a pastiche, Ferrin’s film posits itself somewhere between Dagon and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, focusing on the mythos of Cthulhu and his minions and those living and worshiping the ancient god.

The Deep Ones wastes absolutely no time in getting directly to the action – we open with a pre-credits sequence that sees Silvia Spross’ character Ingrid running naked down the street. And no sooner have Alex and Petri arrived at this Airbnb than they’re subjected to a whole heap of supernatural “torture” as the islanders they get friendly with mild them into vessels/sacrifices for their masters… the titular deep ones.

For those unfamiliar with the work of Lovecraft, The Deep Ones is also reminiscent of the likes of Rosemary’s Baby – with Alex’s bizarre, almost instantaneous, pregnancy the subject of scrutiny and manipulation by the Cthulhu-worshiping cult members. On the opposite side of the fence is Kelli Maroney’s Ambrose – your typical “crazy-lady” character who knows what’s really going on and who knows what danger Alex and Petri are really in. No one listen of course… We can’t go having the usual horror tropes broken can we?

Though speaking of breaking tropes. The Deep Ones surprises by having a trans character – in the doctor that visits Alex – among the cast. Nothing is made of it, its not treated as anything strange (beyond the fact that even the doctor is also cult member); and as such its a brilliant example of representation that confirms what genre fans have always know – horror is often a pioneer, telling untold stories and representing the under-represented. All in the confines of scary storytelling.

Whilst The Deep Ones was obviously filmed on a low budget it actually looks superb. The only thing that reflects the low-budget nature of the film are the effects. The appearance of the titular deep ones is kept to a minimum – we see a LOT of tentacles, in both terrifying and phallic ways – with the odd appearance of a fish man who look remarkably similar (like REALLY similar) to those in Charlie Steeds film The Barge People; and a climax that unleashes Dagon himself! Other than that we get a lot of cult members stood around looking creepy and a bucket-load of atmosphere that really helps build the tension. Between the use of CCTV and the eerie soundtrack – from the legendary Richard Band no less – The Deep Ones really ramps up the fear factor.

The Deep Ones climaxes with an insane, over the top sequence that does its best to reflect the work of Lovecraft and reflect the film itself, with the end of this particular film mirroring the beginning. Bringing the story full circle and, unfortunately, proving you can’t outrun the many tentacles of Cthulhu – be they symbolic or literal!

**** 4/5

Another superb slice of terror from writer/director Chad Ferrin, The Deep Ones screened as part of this years Grimmfest virtual festival on Friday October 8th 2020.

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