Horror movies can get too clever for their own good. Whether it is a complicated backstory, a big bad with an odd weakness, or a not so shocking twist, the genre is often guilty of trying too hard. Artik is a 2019 horror movie that does away with the frills and tells a tense and disturbing story.
Artik is the story of a serial killer and his family. The killer teaches his son how to kill and get away with it. One day, the young boy meets a man who seemingly wants to help. This chance encounter leads to bloody consequences.
Less is more is a phrase that is not often applied to storytelling. Artik’s use of this philosophy benefits the entire film. From the very beginning, there is a sense of tension conveyed. Part of the reason is the setting. There is no need for a large haunted mansion as a simple house is able to convey the correct atmosphere. The serial killer’s home is depressing. The family seems to live in a forgotten part of town that is on the fringes of society. It is almost like they are squatting in an abandoned building in a deserted village. It literally is not much, but it sets the perfect tone to the movie.
Artik is filled with strong performances. Jerry G. Angelo does a great job playing the titular serial killer. Artik is not only the villain, he is an imposing figure. Aside from being a large man, he seems to be no different than anyone else. It is an great take on the character that makes him more frightening. He is not some raving lunatic; he is a caring father who has a warped idea of how to make the world a better place for his son.
Lauren Ashley Carter also does a wonderful job as Artik’s wife Flin Brays. Carter is an underrated actress who has been outstanding in films such as 2015’s Darling. In previous performances, Carter usually plays the the vulnerable and heroic lead. Her characters also tend to have a toughness that is admirable. In Artik, Carter plays a different role than fans may be used to. While the toughness is certainly there, Flin is definitely not vulnerable. As is the case with most of Carter’s roles, Flin is a very interesting character. She is first seen as a caring wife and a nurturing mother. It is hard not to sympathize with her knowing she will probably have to deal with her husband or the protagonist. In one of the highlights of the film, Flin shows she his more than capable of taking care of herself.
A story about a massive serial killer teaching his son how to get away with murder seems like it will be cut and dry. Things are going to get very violent and there probably will not be much of a story. While a strong argument can be made that Artik is borderline gorno, it does tell an interesting tale. The difference between it and other movies that revel in torture porn is here violence is used sparingly and effectively.
Make no mistake about it; Artik is a disturbingly violent film. Instead of a mind numbingly brutal film that almost glorifies the graphic murders, director Tom Botchi Skowronski is more interested in setting the tone, however. The opening scene gives audiences an idea of what is in store. Before one word has been said, there is a sense of depression and tension. This permeates the entire movie. The many shots of sunflowers that are being grown by Artik, Flin, and their makeshift family beautifully illustrate while there may some brightness, the world as a whole is a dark one.
The story is tight and focused. When Artik’s son Adam meets the curious Holton, the audience has a good idea of where things are heading. The script moves forward at a quick pace. Artik does not introduce many characters and the plot never becomes convoluted. This allows for the strong development of the principle characters. Both Artik and Holton see themselves as heroes, but have different means and goals. This leads to a frenzied conclusion that is incredibly satisfying.
More often than not, a film will be applauded for telling a streamlined story. The more things brought into the story, the greater the chance of the movie becoming a bloated affair that will turn people away. Artik is the opposite. While the story is great and there is nothing technically wrong with it, it would have been nice to have a deeper backstory. The audience gets an idea of Artik’s motivations, but the rest of the characters are near one dimensional. The strong performances and tight story make up for this, but this is the rare film that would have been better by being longer.
Artik is not your typical serial killer movie. This is not another exploitation film trying to showcase a series of gory murders. Instead, the well written plot sets out to scare its audience through setting and strong performances. The story is bare bones and the streamlined plot could have benefited from giving more insight into other characters but overall, it is hard to take your eyes away from Artik.