A review of The Rake (2018)

Director: Tony Wash

Written by:  Jeremy Silva, Tony Wash

Producers:  Mike Dozier, Tony Wash, Robert Patrick Stern, Sarah Sharp, Angela Cox, Jim Petersen.

Starring:  Rachel Melvin, Shenae Grimes-Beech, Joey Bicicchi, Stephen Brodie, Joe Nunez, Izabella Miko

 

I have known of Tony Wash for a couple of years now – the man is a horror lover, writer, film producer and general all round good egg who amongst other things has worked extensively with and promoted some of the community of filmmakers that formed part of his brainchild, World of Death, an international compilation of horror short films produced by Scotchworthy Productions and JP3 Media. For those who haven’t yet sampled it’s gory delights, World of Death brought together the talent of over 400 filmmakers from more than 40 different countries in a compilation of short horror films that terrorized, astonished, disturbed, and excited genre fans across the globe. World of Death isn’t just a compilation; it’s a community. Consisting of over 400 filmmakers plus their casts and crew, World of Death includes independent talent of every age and level of experience from all over the globe. I think you could tell I liked it.

So it was with interest that I noticed a little while ago that Tony’s newest feature (The Rake is actually his third feature, but the second to be widely released) had recently been released to the world and so of course I wanted in on a piece of the action. Once I saw that the said feature was a suitably blood-soaked spooky chiller concerning an urban-mythical monster known as “the Rake” who decides that venting his terror upon an isolated group of adults is the thing to do, well lets just say that my interest was well and truly piqued.

The Rake was born in October of 2014 when FX artist Jason Kain and director Tony Wash were discussing frustrations over another project losing its steam.  “Jason pretty much said ‘Screw it, why don’t we make a movie about The Rake?’  He showed me a brief synopsis from Creepypasta about the Rake mythos and I’ve always been a fan of creature features so it was pretty easy to convince me.” Shortly after, Robert Patrick Stern, Sarah Sharp, Jim Petersen and Angela Verdino became involved as producers and the team quickly began orchestrating the development of The Rake.  Wash brought on co-writer Jeremy Silva to help pen the script and the duo had a shooting script ready in less than three months.

By March of 2015 a location had been secured along with a majority of financing and casting had begun. Initially, The Rake was to be a non-union project so the team had to look for talented cast members who were not affiliated with SAG.  “We began reaching out to actors we’d worked with in the past and whom we felt were capable of bringing such rich characters to life.” recalls Rob Stern.  One of the actors the team contacted shared the script with a group of producers he is associated with in LA and they were instantly eager to become a part of the project.  With the movie now in the hands of the new producers, principal photography commenced in late March.  After a 19 day shoot ended in April and three subsequent pickup days in December, The Rake was in the can and being shipped to LA for the edit, helmed by Sam Bauer (Donnie Darko).  Over the next two years, the LA team put the movie through post production and secured distribution through Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.  “It’s been an interesting process to say the least.” said Wash of the experience.  “I’m accustomed to indie filmmaking where the director is the captain of the ship from inception to completion.  The ‘Hollywood Process’ is a substantially different approach that I was unfamiliar with, but I’m damn proud of what our team created on set, hope our post team in LA built upon that foundation, and am excited for audiences to see that talent and diligence shine through in the final product.”

Tony and his production team were good enough to send me an online link to the film in order for me to provide some thoughts on his work……… so let me throw a brief synopsis your way.

“Following the death of their parents, seemingly at the hands of a psychopath, siblings Ben and Ashley reunite 20 years later, at a gathering of friends, and are forced to finally face up to the events of that dreadful night when their parents were killed. What follows is a night of terror in which this group will find out if it’s all in the heads of Ben and Ashley, following the trauma of their childhood, or is there some truth behind the legend of the supernatural creature known as The Rake.”

 

Any self-respecting horror flick rests on a strong opening act – The Rake does not disappoint in this respect with the introduction of a young boy, Ben, witnessing his father (a Psychiatrist) studying the video tapes in his bedroom of serial killer Jacob Murphy. Of course, watching interview footage of serial killers at home with children present is asking for trouble in most worlds, especially in the horror movie world because you know for sure trouble is just around the corner, especially when Murphy begins screaming in the interview about being possessed by a supernatural entity (I know, we’ve all used that excuse in a police interrogation……..wait, what, that’s just me?). However it seems that our cuddly local serial killer is indeed telling the truth because later that night he breaks into Ben’s family house to viciously murder his parents in front of him and his sister, Ashley. If this wasn’t bad enough for the children (and lets face it, so far it’s been pretty stressful) the killer proceeds to stab out his own eyes and mutters “it will infect us all” before slitting his own throat. All in all, a nicely atmospheric and deliciously bloody introduction to the film. As set pieces go, very effective.

As you can imagine, this all proves a little difficult to get over for the brother and sister, especially Ashley who has undergone years of Psychological and medical treatment in an effort to rid her of the trauma. It is clear that when 20 years after the event when she and her brother meet with a group of friends at their foster sister’s secluded home that the treatment hasn’t been particularly effective, in fact this would be something of an understatement. The middle act of the film explores the strained and complex relationships of the individuals brought together as they battle with their past and the ever crumbling present.

On the one hand this middle section provides an effective show of the progressing paranoia of the group, especially that of Ashley who we are asked to examine whether she is really being tormented by the Rake or whether her fear is merely a side-effect of her delusional mind’s connection with the entity. This is done by never really revealing the creature until far later in the film, instead Wash is keen to use the feeling that the group are constantly being observed from the darkness and becoming ever more aware of the creature presence, with it biding its time until it’s fully gorged on the mounting paranoia and is fully ready to finish its bloody work.

This all works to a certain extent in the middle act however it is occasionally let down in terms of pacing as certain conversational scenes simply last too long which serve to give a feeling that the film is ‘wandering and disjointed’ somewhat in this period. I fully understand (and like) the intention to play out the character’s psychological development and to provide a feeling of impending claustrophobic tension in the house (the filming is impeccably atmospheric), however this is less effective that it could have been if certain dialogue scenes had been trimmed a little more.

However, this is but a mere negative gripe as the final act certainly makes up for the uneven middle section when the magnificent creature is fully revealed and events take a somewhat violent turn! I will refrain from giving anything away, but suffice to say that if you like your horror violent, bloody and occasionally gory then you will not be disappointed. Nor will you be disappointed with the creature (imagined or real? Well, wait until you see the film for yourself) because it looks incredible as it works its way through some very effective chilling sequences.

The acting throughout is solid and effective from all the cast – especially from Melvin, Grimes-Beech and Bicicchi who provide sterling performances. The lighting, photography and overall look of the film also cannot be faulted, the movie constantly looks wonderful.

Would I recommend The Rake?  Yes I would, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable slice of contemporary horror that I would be more than happy to watch again. It isn’t perfect and would have certainly been improved by a less disjointed middle act, however what does work in this movie works VERY well indeed and it is clear to see the level of work and commitment that went into this production. Highly recommended!

I hope to be talking to Tony Wash in the very near future for the Conversations Playlist on the 5D YouTube Channel, not only about The Rake, but also about a couple of other feature films of his that are coming out later this year; Skeletons In The Closet and High On The Hog (starring the legendary Sid Haig).

You can view more about the work of Scotchworthy Productions RIGHT HERE.

THE RAKE, spreading fear here on DVD and Digital June 5 distributed by Unified Pictures via Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

 

 

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