FrightFest Glasgow 2016: The Hexecutioners Review

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In a not too distant future, or alternative reality, a Government bill ( Proposition 117) sanctioning assisted suicides in private medical practices, is passed in the USA. Three years later, financially struggling twenty-something Malison McCourt (Liv Collins) starts work at private euthanasia clinic “Life Source Closures” but blunders her first assignment with sick trickling consequences. Malison is subsequently assigned to shadow professional death administrator Olivia Bletcher (Sarah Power): an elegant, red-lipped faux-fatale. Their joint task involves “closing” terminally ill aristocrat Milons Sombrac (played by a latex loaded screenwriter Tony Burgess) in a ritualistic manner involving the Tibetan Book of the Dead and a “Sky Burial” ceremony for cleansing the soul. Thankfully (for us) this doesn’t go to plan.

This contemporary ritual/ sacrifice horror starts promisingly, effectively building on its topical concept with compelling characters, a succinct set up and even a slight sci-fi subtext. But Tony Burgess’ script totters into well-trodden terrain, vacillating through dimly lit corridors and candle dotted basements in attempt to raise dismay before crumbling into cliché. The Hexecutioners scares are defective and director Jesse Thomas Cook (Septic Man, Monster Brawl) fails to augment Burgess’ brilliant premise or harvest foreboding to keep the viewer on edge. The protagonists saunter through ominous genre sets accompanied by a stock horror score that triggers a protracted monotony and The Hexecutioners only partially recovers in the final third, when the spirits of a Death Cult show up to claim souls.

Intangible dream sequences instil an uncanny air but fail to prevail over fundamental script flaws and bungled scares. Fantastic special effects/ malformed latex/ monster designs and some nice black and white photography (adorned by patches of faded colour) go some way to make The Hexecutioners more visually arresting than most generic horror fodder, but unique imagery and commendable production facets are no substitute for a terse, rapacious plot. Tar-faced/ bag-headed looking beasties arrive to rouse a slither of unease in the latter half, yet an arduous foot chase through the cumbersome finale leaves a deleterious trace and makes the majority of The Hexecutioners mostly mediocre.

A Renfield-like servant of Milon named Edgar (Timothy Bird) adds a droll, rustic goth touch, eavesdropping on inopportune moments where the girls are insulting him, but Edgar (like the film) lacks a menacing presence, apart from when chanting in the requisite garb. Mal’s boss Mr Winston (Barry Flatman): a rich, chipper company head with a distorted sense of humour is exceptionally hilarious, especially when digging at their morbid profession: “Cheer up Mal, this is euthanasia, we’re not saving lives”. The relationship between Mal and Olivia is complex and  titillating. They are unalike but bond well, recognising their differences as admirable traits. With such appealing characters, it’s unfortunate The Hexecutioners ambles so leisurely into painstaking tedium and strives to orchestrate horror using tired chestnut staples.

Cook’s film is often abstract and ambiguous with a surprising twist and fascinating premise but it’s stretched centre, hackneyed cants and last act labyrinth dash do little to terrify, and hugely hamper the whole experience.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
The Hexecutioners
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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.