The Song of Solomon Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Unearthed Films
Written and directed by Stephen Biro
2017, 86 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on August 14th, 2018
Jessica Cameron as Mary
Jim Van Bebber as Father Blake
Gene Palubicki as Father Corbin
Andy Winton as The Ordinary
Scott Gabbey as Father Lawson
David E. McMahon as Father Powell
Maureen Pelamati as Susan
Josh Townsend as Dr. Johnston
Scott Allen Warner as Dr. Richardson
After the death of her father, Mary’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. Following a visit to a family counselor, it appears her problems are far more serious than simple depression. Demonic possession becomes the frontrunner explanation and soon the Catholic Church becomes involved, hoping to save her soul. The Archdiocese sends in Father Blake, a retired priest with little interest in performing another exorcism. He is assisted by the young Father Lawson, but they are unsuccessful in their efforts. Father Corbin, a radical Soldier of God, is up next, but his attempt is another failure. A fourth priest, Father Powell, is brought in for cleanup and he leaves the room with different results. The church has an ulterior motive in this fight against evil and it is up to Powell to figure it out and save young Mary.
In 1973, The Exorcist dropped the mic on this type of religious horror movie. The film casts a long shadow and many pretenders have tried and failed to knock it off its post as “The Scariest Movie Ever Made”. The Song of Solomon does not even try to fill its legendary shoes, opting instead for a more intimate tale that is light on theological discussion and heavy on the gore. The exorcism scenes dominate the duration of the running time and writer/ director Stephen Biro plays it straight for the jugular. This is not a particularly introspective film, as special make-up effects artists Marcus Koch (Oddtopsy fx) and Jerami Cruise (Toe Tag fx) are given the lingering spotlight to deliver the gory goods. The guys are definitely talented and they present one shocking sequence after another. The film works on a visceral level and is frequently shocking in its depravity.
Jessica Cameron (Mr. Hush) stars as the tormented Mary, and the movie hinges on her performance. She is up to the challenge and pulls it off with ease, though we barely get to meet her before she shows signs of possession. Cameron does a great job and is put through physical and emotional torment in the role. Jim Van Bebber (Deadbeat at Dawn) co-stars as Father Blake, the troubled priest reluctant to step back into the ring with a demon. He shares a great onscreen chemistry with Cameron and the two work well together. The rest of the cast are uneven but have their moments, but are nowhere near the league of these two performers.
The Song of Solomon is the latest entry in the American Guinea Pig series of films created by Biro and his company Unearthed Films. Inspired by the Japanese gross-out pictures of the 1980s and '90s that gained notoriety for their extreme levels of graphic violence, Biro acquired the rights to the Japanese Guinea Pig franchise and in 2014 started making new features as a domestic spin on the material. Gory set pieces are the driving force of these movies and the filmmaker brings a great deal of creativity to the table. His strong suit as a director is letting the special effects team step in and do their thing. These extended sequences overstay their welcome and refuse to stop until viewers are either hopelessly disgusted or giddy with laughter at the excess of the situation.
Copious levels of blood and guts are no substitute for a solid script, however, and the film falters under its own weight. Dialogue is occasionally flat and clunky and not helped by some of the actors delivering it. There is also some wonky camera work that breaks the 180˚ rule making it look like a character is jumping sides in a conversation or talking to the back of someone’s head. Biro is not making an art film and never pretends to be better than the story he is telling. This is an effects-heavy show reel for the artists involved. The movie works as a fun albeit really disgusting entry in the possession subgenre and gorehounds will eat it up. Casual viewers are in for a wild ride and may not make it to the finish line, but I encourage you to stick around as the film builds to a satisfying conclusion. Those thinking about making a purchase may want to rent the title first.
Video and Audio:
The Song of Solomon receives a strong transfer, presenting the picture in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. There is a lot of shadow play in this movie and black levels are well-saturated and provide plenty of detail. Some sequences are lit by candlelight and are nicely rendered here.
A Dolby Digital 2.0 audio mix is all that is offered, but it proves serviceable enough to get the job done. An expanded 5.1 mix may have benefited the material a bit more, but what we get is sufficient. Dialogue levels are occasionally low and people frequently speak over each other, but there are no subtitle options included on this disc.
This title comes with a large array of bonus features starting off with two audio commentaries. The first one features director Stephen Biro and actress Jessica Cameron in a laid back, conversational discussion of the production. There are occasional gaps of silence as they watch the movie, but this is an entertaining listen.
The second commentary features Biro joined by special effects artists Marcus Koch and Jerami Cruise. Biro steers the conversation but allows the f/x guys plenty of room to discuss their work. This is an engaging recording that is full of production anecdotes and is well worth your time.
A generous amount of behind-the-scenes footage (70 minutes) showcases the make-up effects construction and presentation. We spend a lot of time with the artists in their shop and on set delivering one solid effect after another.
Actress Jessica Cameron sits down for a promotional interview (21 minutes) in which she shares tales of working with the cast and crew. She talks about the specially designed bed prop, working with special effects and how she approaches scenes involving vomit.
Stephen Biro is interviewed (24 minutes) about his faith and how he approached the material. He discusses his relationship with the effects crew and how he ran his set on a daily basis.
The next interview features special make-up effects artist Marcus Koch (28 minutes), who is full of good stories. He is an energetic guy with a lot to say and is instantly likeable. He talks about his work and his association with the American Guinea Pig series.
Cinematographer Chris Hilleke is also interviewed (35 minutes) about his job on the film and he too is full of good production stories. He focuses mostly on working closely with the f/x team to get the lighting right for their numerous gags.
A collection of outtakes (9 minutes) shows activity between takes in addition to flubbed lines and silly behavior.
A photo gallery (161 images) plays as a slideshow and includes promotional stills and behind-the-scenes photographs of the cast and crew at work.
The original theatrical trailer is also included.