DreadWorld Review: Closer to God (2014/2015)

Lost in all the remakes, found footage, and shiny vampires of the last decade of horror has been the undervalued sub-genre of body horror. While body horror has been around since the genesis of the genre, with films like Tod Browning's Freeks, the concept was revolutionized in the 70's by Canadian writer director, David Cronenberg. Throughout the 70's and 80's Cronenberg repeatedly examined the effects of body changes and modification on the human psyche and society as a whole. While Cronenberg moved away from straight horror years ago, the genre itself moved away from the visceral parts of body horror and towards the more tangible, in your face, shocking parts of the genre.

Cronenbergs son, Brandon, attempted to recapture some of his fathers horror days with his 2012 film Antiviral. Still, you have to look pretty hard to find a film that evokes the early body horror of Cronenberg. Closer to God is one of the few recent films that attempts to trod on the psychological side of classic Cronenberg while mixing in some rather heavy handed Frankenstein references for good measure.

Written and Directed by Bill Senese, Closer To God stars Jeremy Childs as Victor a genetic scientist who clones a human child. This child, Elizabeth, becomes the symbol of the fight between religion and science. It's a fight that not only stands to pull Victors family apart, but to bring to light nightmares that Victor has tried to keep hidden for years.

Senese is very skilled at crafting a narrative that feels both urgent and foreboding. He uses some wonderful slight of hand to build a secondary plot into a shocking reveal - one that even the most jaded movie goes probably doesn't see coming. While something carefully and expertly done is always welcome, it actually hurts Closer to God. For two acts the film is building to ward a climax, and an epic climax at that, instead what we get in the third act feels more like a cop out. While the end is satisfying, it's not what it could have been. Where as a Cronenberg films third act would end up as a balls to the wall explosion, Senese takes his film in a much more personal, tragic direction.

Senese's ending may be lackluster because it's not what the film was building to, but it's not enough to sink the entire film. Jeremy Childs as Victor is the lynch pin that holds the whole thing together. He's brooding, he's dark, yet sensitive. Even as the credits role you are not sure if he's the villain or hero - much like his inspiration and name sake Dr. Viktor Frankenstein. Victors journey follows the good Doctors journey almost to a T. Misunderstood, brilliant, and driven to the point of fault. For both men their desire to advance society would be their undoing - by those he sought to help.

While Victors journey is cribbed almost beat for beat from Mary Shelley, the battle for his genetically cloned child, Elizabeth feels like something Senese had seen on the evening news. Her story is certainly a modern meta-commentary on the ongoing fight between scientific progress and traditional Judaeo-Christian values. It's a shame that her story is cut short, because it really felt like Senese had something to say regarding the matter.

With Closer to God, Senese attempts to take the traditional Frankenstein story, some Cronenbergian science based horror, and some meta-commentary and swirly it around into a cohesive narrative - and he almost pulls it off. Closer to God is a good film with some real momentum heading into it's third act. That momentum is stopped dead in it's tracks when Senese tries to get to cute and gooses the story with an unnecessary twist. Even saying that, though the twist is and effective one, it just feels a bit out of place here in this film.

*** and 1/4 stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich."

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