Let me first clear up the date confusion here: The film was shot in 2006 but its finally getting the release it deserves now in 2010. This happens with most indie projects (having a large gap between when its shot and released). But I can assure you that this is a very strong indie horror flick that goes into some pretty dark territory. Writer-director-executive producer-cinematographer Bart Mastronardi (hey come on, this is an indie film!!) creates a pretty moving psychological horror film that delves into the mind and shows what can happen when such feelings as guilt, loneliness, and isolation get the better of a man.
The story is about a young guy named Nicolas Bertram (played by Keith Fraser) whose entire life has been nothing but a series of painful events. His mother died while giving birth to him, his father has completely turned his back on him and even blames him for his mother’s death, and his girlfriend also died. But through all this trauma Nicolas just keeps pushing all the pain down deep inside. He finally gets to the point where he can’t take it anymore, snaps, and attempts to kill himself by slitting his wrists in the bathtub. But he couldn’t even do that right and he survives. This is about the time the movie switches gears.
What starts as a moving character study turns into a psychological horror tale. As Nicolas is laying strapped down on the hospital gurney, he is visited by an odd and frightening vision/ghost/monster. It seems his guilt has manifested into some creature that from this point forward haunts him and urges him to examine his life and feelings. This self-examination makes him realize who and what he is and he slowly becomes a monster. Not a “monster” in the “creature feature” vein, but a human monster who does some truly horrific things.
Indie horror films always have more obstacles to overcome due to their very limited budget. But you wouldn’t know that here. Vindication is marked by excellent cinematography and editing and Mastronardi keeps the soundtrack very minimalistic thereby adding to the film’s atmosphere. And his use of shadows and darkness was stunning; there’s scenes here where the darkness becomes a character itself. And for the gore lover in us all don’t worry; even though this has a very student and experimental feel to it Mastronardi doesn’t skimp on the blood. Once Nicolas finally snaps he goes on a killing spree to rival even the best iconic celluloid slasher (just wait for the end where Nicolas loses it in a packed club)!! Good stuff. And the gore is very well executed by Henry Borriello.
This film isn’t without its flaws. There’s some overacting at times by various cast members, the story gets a little long winded in places, and the plot isn’t always clear. But you easily forgive these negatives because you can see and feel what Mastronardi is doing — giving us a film that examines how our inner world can affect our physical well-being. Mastronardi has recently been getting some very well-deserved publicity for Vindication. He had a full page write up in the April 2010 issue of Fangoria Magazine and has a two-part interview with Fangoria on-line. He notes in Fangoria several of his influences: “I drew from Shakespeare, Dante, Clive Barker, Stanley Kubrick, and others.” And trust me, you’ll feel the presence of Barker more than anything in Vindication. Mastronardi actually does a damn good job capturing a very “Barker-ish” feel in Vindication. There’s the themes of art, guilt, repression, and self-mutilation that you find in Barker’s works as well.
As I mentioned above, this has a very experimental and “student film” vibe to it; but this isn’t a criticism. We get some great camera angles and unique editing that you just won’t find in mainstream horror releases. This is a very deep and I’d assume personal film from Mastronardi that’s definitely one you want to check out. The well-done gore, overall good performances, and the original and interesting story make this not just a good “indie horror” film but a good film by any standard.
Director: Bart Mastronardi (and writer)
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer