Sella Turcica Movie Review
Written by Steve "Alien Redrum" Pattee
A Toetag Inc. Production
I'm freaking out a little bit. There's black shit leaking out of you! - Bruce
Directed by Fred Vogel
Written by Don Moore, Fred Vogel and Shelly Vogel
2010, 106 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on October 13th, 2010
Damien A. Maruscak as Sgt. Bradley Adam Roback
Camille Keaton as Karmen Roback
Jade Risser as Ashley Roback
Harvey Daniels as Gavyn
Sean P. McCarthy as Bruce Roback
I got my first introduction to the psychotic talents of Fred Vogel, co-founder of Toetag Pictures, in the effects-laden cult film August Underground. While short on plot, the movie's gore was through the roof, ultra-realistic and uncomfortable as hell. The follow up to this bloodfest, August Underground: Mordum, was just as impressive as its predecessor, but lacked the originality and became, sadly, more of the same. Even so, there was no denying Toetag's talent with minimal budget and it carried through to films like Murder Set Pieces and Redsin Tower. No matter what you felt about the movies, you couldn't deny the amazing effects work.
Now, take all you know about Toetag's films and throw it out the window, because Sella Turcica is not what you will expect from the company. Unless you are anticipating a dialogue driven film, with the blood and guts you've come to know and love from Toetag arriving only at the end of the movie.
Sella Turcica starts with a family preparing for the arrival of Brad, a war vet who suffered a mysterious accident which has left him pallid in color and confined to a wheelchair. Throughout the course of the movie, Brad's condition slowly worsens as his family looks on helplessly. Just when it seems things can't get worse, his affliction takes a bad turn, culminating into an explosive ending.
The script is its biggest strength, doing a fantastic job in keeping the origin of Brad's ailment a mystery — one that is never fully explained — and, with stronger actors, Sella Turcica would be a joy to watch. Sadly, the majority of the actors in the film are not strong enough to carry a dialog-heavy film. With the exception of Damien Maruscak (Brad), the cast is largely wooden in the delivery of their lines. Even the biggest name in the film, Camille Keaton (I Spit on Your Grave), is not up to her game here, and she is an actress I adore. To be fair, Jade Risser as Brad's concerned sister, Ashley, does have her moments, but not enough to be impressive. I suspect in time she will grow into her capabilities because you can see skill under the surface, but even Risser isn't consistent enough here to deliver the vast amount of emotion the script requires.
Yet, fortunately for Sella Turcica, there is Damien Maruscak in the lead, because he is the one that makes the movie endurable. While the character spends much of his time fighting through his pain (which Maruscak sells with ease), there are three scenes in which he really shows his acting chops. Two involve dialog-driven moments, one where he's discussing with Bruce, his brother, what happened in the war. The other is a moment he shares with his sister trying to explain what he's going through — which happens to be one of Jade Risser's best scenes as well. The third is during the film's finale, where Brad is at his worst, physically, and he's shambling through the house. I don't know if there were any visual effects added to the way he was moving, but if so they were seamless and, if not, kudos to Maruscak. That dude has one creepy shuffle.
Now this wouldn't be a Toetag movie without some effects, and in the last 15 minutes or so they lay it on thick, making it worth the wait. I've always been impressed with Toetag's blood work, and this is no exception. The red is plentiful and the grue is unapologetic. There are some wonderful cringe-worthy scenes in these last minutes, and it's a shame they weren't spread a little more throughout the film to break up the monotony.
Sella Turcica is an interesting addition to the Toetag catalog and, even with its flaws, a welcome one. Even though its script was overly-ambitious considering the angst of finding strong actors in the low-budget world, I'm glad Toetag is branching out to more dramatic pieces because it shows that they are taking that leap to grow as a company. I have a lot of love for their work and if Toetag is going to mix it up, I'll gladly get on that ride with them. Hopefully the next attempt will have a stronger batch of co-stars that will give the script the power it deserves.
Video and Audio:
Video and audio will not be graded as this was a screener.
- Deleted Scenes
- Behind the Scenes Photos
- Making of Fulci's Death
- Audio Commentary with Fred Vogel and Damien Maruscak
- On Set Photos
- Tattoos on Set
The commentary with Fred Vogel and Damien Maruscak is the winner of the features on this disc. Vogel carries the majority of the discussion and he does not waste it with the general fluff of "he was great in this" that many commentaries are plagued with. He knows what people want to hear and he tells of behind the scenes exploits, set design, locations and more, never getting too technical. Certainly he does talk about working with the actors, but he takes those times a step further in also discussing how he found them and why he cast them.
The other highlight of the features is the "Making of Fulci's Death" featurette. Running at just about eight minutes, the piece shows what went into the destruction of the family pug. It's a lot of fun if you hate pugs. Like me.
The rest is the standard fare, worth a glimpse once, but not much meat to them.