Restoration Movie Review
Written by Colton Gabelmann
Released by Uncork'd Entertainment
Directed byZack Ward
Written by James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward
2016, Not Rated
Released on VOD on May 3rd, 2016 | DVD released on July 7th, 2016
Emily Roya O'Brien as Rebecca Jordan
Adrian Gaeta as Todd Jordan
Zack Ward as Harold
Sarah Ann Schultz as Francine
Anna Harr as Katherine
I went into Zack Ward's Restoration with rock-bottom expectations. With 2016 so far being a wash in terms of horror releases and sporting a scant IMDb page, I expected Restoration to be a low-budget, low-scare straight-to-DVD release. Despite my pessimism, I was pleasantly surprised to learn a lesson in judging a book by its cover – Restoration is a well-made, impeccably directed hidden gem.
The movie follows newlyweds Rebecca (Emily O'Brien) and Todd (Adrian Gaeta) as they move into their new fixer-upper and start their life together. Rebecca just started her residency at the local hospital, and Todd is hard at work renovating their new love nest. Trouble crops up in paradise, however, as the burning ghost of a little girl named Katherine (Anna Harr) reaches out to the happy couple, seeking their aid in putting her displaced spirit to rest.
Right off the bat, Restoration showcases what is probably its strongest draw: incredible cinematography. The opening credits weave a flying path through a dilapidated home interior, flowing seamlessly into the first shot of the actual movie. From there, it only gets better; the camera angles are inventive and serve to build the suspense. Tracking shots between stair banisters create the illusion of the actors being watched by some unknown presence, and even the static shots are tilted slightly to remind the viewer that something isn't quite right. Ward makes excellent use of lighting to fill a scene with dread – a cute conversation between our protagonists becomes unsettling when filmed under a yellow light. Also of note is the sound direction. A man walking through his sparsely furnished home in the dark is scary, but a man walking through his sparsely furnished home in the dark with pulsing minor chords and unintelligible ghostly whispers is downright chilling.
Thanks to all of the above, Restoration stands head-and-shoulders above its peers with its ability to create tension. I watched this movie in broad daylight, and I still found myself with my shoulders hunched and my fists clenched from the nervous energy Ward injected into every scene.
This, however, leads into my only serious complaint about the film. Despite Ward's masterful tension-building cinematography, Restoration shows a strange reliance on jump scares for most of its big reveals. The mark of a good horror movie is its ability to spook its audience without the use of cheap tricks, but time and time again, tense scenes are resolved with something jumping out and shouting, "Boo!" I can allow a director one or two "gotcha" moments in a film, but a dependence on startling your audience for your scares is a sign of laziness.
That aside, Restoration is absolutely worth a watch. Zack Ward has been in and out of the horror scene for a few years now, and it's clear he picked up some tricks along the way. Stellar cinematography, brilliant sound direction, and laudable performances by its leads make Restoration a worthy addition to any gorehound's collection.