Revealer – Dir: Luke Boyce (Film Review – Shudder)

Revealer is a neon-filled sassy spookfest of a horror film by Luke Boyce, set in a seedy, rundown adult store in ‘80s Chicago that pairs together two unlikely survivors of the Apocalypse as they face interpersonal and otherworldly judgement.

Starring: Caito Aase, Bishop Stevens, Shaina Schrooten, Buzz Leer, Phil Bogdan, Sammy DelPurgatorio

Revealer is already an instant addition to my horror collection: an aesthetically gorgeous horror film that excels with a simple storyline, an incredibly funny script with relatable characters and outstanding performances from its two lead actors.

RevealerThe story of Revealer follows Angie Pitarelli (Caito Aase), who ends up trapped in a poorly maintained and structurally unsound peep show booth with the uptight, outspokenly judgmental Sally Mewbourne (Shaina Schrooten) as her only company.

Sally judges the hell out of Angie, who deflects and redirects much of the laser-focused bigotry back toward the devout religious prude through witty one-liners and the occasional unsuspecting Falcon Punch. The film has a strong surface-level narrative of sexual freedom and personal expression, examining the complexity of judgment and the compassion required to support our own growth and do the same for others.

The film’s lead actors are phenomenally entertaining and fun to watch. Aase naturally strolls into the film as though the world and character were meticulously crafted around them from the start, and Schrooten does the rare job of playing a highly hateable character that manages to win you over with complex compassion and character growth to end the film as much a likeable and relatable human being as Angie.

This is one of the reasons I love horror; how it can tackle current societal themes or provide representation without overwhelming the fact that it’s spooky, entertaining escapism. It makes these characters and their journeys relatable in different ways to different people, adding depth to their growth that examines human existence – fear, love, acceptance, purpose – while presenting two characters that I know more than a handful of my female friends will be joyfully quoting, and much to my encouragement.

I was also fortunate enough to get to chat with both Luke Boyce and Caito Aase before the official release of the film, and the more I learned about the production and collaborative influences in making it what it is, the more I appreciated that this film exists, and to the almost immediately timeless standard that it does.

The film was made during the pandemic, which meant production had to be contained and the actors isolated – which even for an experienced crew is just the absolute worst way to start making a film that doesn’t have an unlimited budget. What I appreciated about this aspect especially is that the script and film never pander to the reality of production, but create a believable replacement and justification that resonates further.

Angie becomes trapped in her dancing booth because of the shoddy construction and cheap maintenance of the building, which is already a place she is somewhat reluctantly irritated to call work, for deeply relatable and understandable reasons.

It’s a tiring, draining job that requires a mindset to make the most of it, in a seedy establishment with an indifferent boss – and Angie still has to put up with the mouthy idiots outside yelling at her for just trying to survive and find a moment of happiness in the reality of her existence.

If this wasn’t a film made during a highly restrictive pandemic shooting schedule, if it wasn’t Boyce’s feature-film directorial debut, if it wasn’t one of Caito Aase’s few acting credits (all of which increasingly blowing my mind), I could still objectively enjoy the hell out of this film repeatedly, for so many different reasons.

For full disclosure, our immediate similarities in visual aesthetics and horror influences likely mean that I’m one of the fortunate few that this film is pretty much made for – but it occupies the same category of modern film for me as Mandy, Slice, The Neon Demon, Beyond The Black Rainbow, Color Out of Space, and PG Psycho Goreman.

There’s an awareness and appreciation of this neon-dripping, nostalgia-tinted style and tone, knowing exactly what it wants to accomplish and how to use the tools available to entertain its audience. It’s a lighter story – despite the apocalypse – than The Neon Demon or Beyond The Black Rainbow, but as this type of film does so well, it still explores deeply human and specifically relevant issues without wedging them uncomfortably into the script.

This is likely in part to the fantastic collaborative crew involved in developing the film and its story. Comic-book artist legends Tim Seeley and Michael Moreci helped write and develop the story with Boyce, and their experience in crafting highly specific visual scenes and dialogue that borders just on the edge of authentic and cheesy for the comic industry is no doubt one reason the script and characters remain so relatable and grounded.

Great to see Bishop Stevens make an appearance as the owner of the seedy adult store, Ray, who worked on Slice, a previous project Boyce was involved in bringing to life. This all just ties into that same feeling that the people who made this poured genuine love for the film and the genre into its production, creating a horror movie of quality that exceeds the limitations put on during filming and the perfect addition to the retro-nostalgia horror genre.

Revealer is exactly what the horror genre needed after a couple of years of somewhat repetitive and isolated films. It shows that passion for a genre, creativity and a desire to entertain will always be more valuable in filmmaking than budget or spectacle.

That rare horror film that manages to be a film about (and a great example of) why discovering the best things in life often begins when you don’t judge a book by its cover.

Oxford Lamoureaux

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