Armistice asks viewers to climb inside one man’s mind, where logic seems to be dwindling, and the unfathomable dominates all things.
With time and the leisurely coming of wisdom also comes an appreciation for slow burn films. As a younger genre fan they did little other than bore me, but as I begin to see the world for what it really is… wow, sometimes these easy-on-the-pedal flicks really strike a chord. Armistice has been hailed as an edgy creeper, and that’s an entirely accurate welcome. The film is slow, no two ways about it, but it starts to sink into the bones as the realization of what’s truly occurring begins to set in. And personally, I’ve got to consider it a successful piece of work that can in no way be denied as a true character examination through and through.
Young soldier, A.J. Budd wakes one morning on a bed. He lies facedown, dead to the world. But he rises just the same, slowly, eyelids straining to lift as the light begins to filter through the blinds. He’s immediately conscious of his foreign surroundings; he doesn’t know this place. But his uniform is carefully set aside, and he dresses, prepared to meet whatever waits downstairs. Oddly enough nothing waits downstairs. The front door is locked, the house is silent. A sandwich and beverage beckon from the kitchen table. He sits, prepared to eat this applauded offering. Until a zombie sprints into the room, dripping green gore and decaying flesh. Rotten, jagged teeth bore, the creature rushes the young man, who’s forced to use a knife (which he woke up with earlier) in order to kill the creature.
And thus begins a cycle. A cycle that never changes, and repeats itself on a daily basis. Until Soldier Budd begins to explore the deepest depths of the house, gradually uncovering truths he’d rather not know. But some questions still loom. Who has locked him here, and why? Is there any means of escape? Slowly but surely Budd learns the outright truth of his situation, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
I thought 2013 was the year of the inspired indie effort. But 2014 is fast looking to surpass its predecessor. Thus far, just a few months into the year we’ve seen some stellar efforts like In Fear, The Returned, Chastity Bites, Son of Ghostman, and Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz (and that’s just a few) surface on disc or VOD. Not a single one of those films sports any budget, and they’re all pretty damn good flicks. They’re entertaining. Some are creepy, some are gross. But they’re all winners, and now we’ve got another winner to contend with, the unlikely creeper, Armistice.
The filming, while basic, is extremely clean. The lighting is handled wonderfully, the shots that call for any intricacy in the cinematography are pulled off well. There’s some nice makeup work to take in, and believe it or not, despite the fact that the bulk of the film takes place in one single, limited setting, the picture really begins to breathe around the midway point, producing a strange false sense of expansion. But above and beyond the technical effectiveness of the work turned in by the behind-the-scenes crew, is the sheer brilliance of focal performer, Joseph Morgan. Morgan plays, of course (given the fact that there are all of two humans in the story) A.J. Budd. And let me tell you, he delivers a jarring performance, convincing on all fronts. The man juggles fury, confusion, curiosity, depression, regret and recognition like few can or ever will manage. Keep in mind, he’s got to pull these emotions off with no one else’s energy to feed from. Pretty damn challenging, and even more admirable that he’s able to pull it off. He may be a mid-30s English fellow with less than 25 projects to his credit, but he’s astonishingly varied in his craft. This is a guy to look out for.
Armistice is an acquired taste, for sure. I can easily imagine just as many detractors as supporters for this one, and I get it. It’s simply not going to work for someone who prefers a fast-paced film, or a wide group of characters, or explosive action scenes for that matter. However, those who find it compelling to climb inside of a man’s mind for the sole purpose of studying its inner workings, Armistice is a clear hit. This shoe-stringer earns big points from me, and the bulk of my praise goes in the direction of writer/director Luke Massey (who wrote the story with Benjamin Read) and A.J. Budd, who does a magnificent job of taking on the burden of holding up an entire film exclusively (on screen, mind you). Kudos gents, you’ve got one more fan in the bag!
Review by Matt Molgaard [ Best Horror Movies ]