As a lover of extreme horror, I'm always keeping an eye on Unearthed Films and their upcoming releases, they never disappoint and always disgust, in a good way, of course. So when I learned of their acquirement of Adrian Corona’s DIS, starring the always impressive indie horror icon, Bill Oberst Jr., I knew that I just had to check it out, but let me tell you, I was not prepared for what I saw.
DIS is an infernal descent into the root of the mandrake legend, a plant that is said to possess mystical properties and according to the legend, when the root is dug up, it screams and kills all who hear it. Harry Potter may come to mind...but I assure you, this is definitely not Harry Potter. DIS follows Ariel (Oberst Jr.), a wandering ex-soldier with a tarnished past that, while wondering the desolate wilderness, finds himself stalked by something that wants to use him as fertilizer for its mandrake garden. The film only runs 60-minutes, so I want to avoid giving too much away in terms of plot.
I thoroughly enjoy original stories created by filmmakers who are willing to take risks, and writer/director Adrian Corona is certainly one of them. DIS is a uniquely disturbing tale that registers high on the "What the fuck did I just watch" scale, and usually when I'm asking myself that question after viewing a film, it's a bad thing. This isn't the case with DIS. Quite honestly, it's unlike any other film I've ever experienced.
Split into three acts, the film wastes no time whatsoever in setting up the story of an otherworldly being needing the blood and "seed" of the damned to appease its mandrakes. The opening scene is an immensely unsettling one that hits you like a slap in the face, and will have any friends or loved ones in the room questioning your well-being. Following this innately uncomfortable scene, the first thing that really struck me with DIS is how phenomenal everything looks. Director of photography, Rodrigo “Rocco” Rodriguez's expert camerawork really shines as he perfectly captures stunning forest landscapes and, even more so, improves the film's overall quality and aesthetic. The blending of visceral sadism and breathtaking visuals is something that's usually unheard of in extreme cinema, being that the two are seen as contrasting elements. Here, they came together to really enrich the overall experience.
Euphoric production quality isn't the only aspect that DIS has going for it, Oberst delivers an outstanding performance, as is normally the case with most of his acting roles. Despite the lack of dialogue in the majority of the film, Oberst is a commanding on screen presence and really shows his dedication to the role, a true testament to his abilities as an actor being that he, and most of the film's cast and crew for that matter, were put through hell on set.
One major thing that sets DIS apart from other films of this nature is its lack of enormous amounts of gore. It's not a film that relies on shock-and-awe tactics to disturb the viewer, instead it uses scenes of profuse suspense, palpable emotion, non-consensual sex, and homicidal horticulture to unhinge the viewer. In terms of plot, the film isn't clear and concise, and while this may bother and even confuse some, I thoroughly enjoyed its reliance on leaving things open for personal interpretation.
Corona and Rodriguez have created an artistic monster of a film that exudes an unshakable sense of despair and debasement, and yet, it's utterly captivating. This is the stuff nightmares are constructed of and you won't be able to take your eyes off the screen. A round of applause to everyone involved. DIS is a film that you don't want to miss and it is more than worth your time. Just make sure that the kiddies and faint of heart aren't within viewing distance.