Running Time: 98 mins
Reviewer: David Gillespie – HCF Official Artist and Reviewer
“Nothing makes us more lonely than our secrets” – Paul Tournier
Decay is a stylized character study of an oddball, social outcast called Jonathon (Rob Zabrecky) and his inability to severe his compulsive routine and lifestyle created by the abuse dealt to him by his religious sociopath of a mother (Lisa Howard). During the opening credits we witness the recluse return from his work in his tricycle whilst a couple of female teenagers break into his home in search of drugs or valuables. After stumbling in on the youths, one slips off a stepladder and cracks her skull. The other panics and flees from the property only to be met with a speeding car on the road and dies instantly. Rather than contact the police and ambulance to retrieve the body from his home, Jonathon decides that not only has he the opportunity to break the monotony of his repetitive lifestyle but he has the perfect companion to spend his lonely days with. However nature comes calling and Jonathon battles with the cycle of decay on the girl’s body. His compulsive order of keeping his property clean and orderly makes this process even more difficult for him. As the body decays so does Jonathon’s sanity and his inability to decipher fantasy and reality. He also has a nosy neighbour (Jackie Hoffman), a cretinous workmate (Elisha Yaffe) and the local police asking questions and hovering around also. Will he have to give his companion up before he is discovered?
First time director, Joseph Wartnerchaney certainly has an eye for detail. There is always time to focus on the rich assortment of retro furniture, plants or items scattered around Jonathon’s flat. Sometimes these will link to an incident in the young man’s past and flashback to an experience that sculpted the social problems and anxiety he suffers in the present. Although this slows down the action, it also enriches the film and allows us to empathize a little as to what the main character is trying to achieve. There is so much to admire visually in a film that can look beautiful but also repulse the viewer at the same time. Perhaps the movie’s most accomplished and impressive sequence is when Jonathon bathes the highly decomposed body of the young girl in his bath. As he sponges her arm, the dead flesh and maggots fall off to reveal the newly reborn body underneath. It is sensual and beautifully filmed but also repugnant as we have violent flashbacks to the rotting cadaver in reality.
Actor Rob Zabrecky is involved in almost all the screen time and does an admirable job of portraying a broken and socially inadequate man in desperate need of medical help for the abuse that he is received in his past. He works in a seemingly abandoned funfair and listens to his randy workmate boast about the perverted girlfriends that he likely never had. When he returns home, his nosy neighbour is there to pry into his personal life and affairs without really listening to what he has to say. Zabrecky downplays the role perfectly but perhaps comes across creepy rather than sympathetic on most occasions.
There is a bleak and dream like vibe to the look and feel of the production. The horror elements only surface in the final third and come across as disturbing rather than truly horrific. There is one jump scare that likely make you hit the ceiling though.
Decay is a solid and visually stimulating, psychological drama with a strong performance from the lead actor. The attention to detail and sense of dread throughout the film bodes well for future projects from Wartnerchaney.