Sella Turcica (2010)
Directed by Fred Vogel
"Then of course, came the war in Viet Nam, which has only been over for about sixteen or seventeen years, and thanks to the lies and deceits surrounding that war, I guess it's no surprise that the very same condition was called post-traumatic stress disorder. Still eight syllables, but we've added a hyphen! And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-traumatic stress disorder. I'll bet you if we'd of still been calling it shell shock, some of those Viet Nam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I'll betcha."
The words from George Carlin still ring true today. I've seen some HBO docs about post traumatic stress disorder and the soldiers who come back are never the same. But they're not as bad as Brad Roback, our main protogaonist in Sella Turcica, Toe Tag's latest film. Fred Vogel and his crew are of course responsible for the infamous August Underground trilogy, but gorehounds should delight they are evolving into more linear films with vibrant characters and a story driven films.
Their other flick, The Redsin Tower is supernatural with gory overtones but here they blend the best of both worlds making us actually CARE about these characters while supplying us with the awesome splatter effects they are known for.
Sella Turcica takes the cliched overused soldier's homecoming story and adds a horror element that redefines trauma in a whole new way. This is the evolution of Toe Tag we are seeing and I like where they are going. It may take a while to get going but somehow I have to admit I was liking each of the characters. They reminded me of a friend's hometown, each of the people resembling real people, not the cardboard MTV cutouts we always see in horror movies.
It's an uneasy feeling to go from Lifetime movie of the week to gorehound delight in a span of 100 or so minutes. But that's what happens in Sella Turcica and while we all know it won't end well, you know your going to be shell shocked instead of post traumatized.
Sgt. Bradley Roback (Damien A. Maruscak) returns home from active duty after a mysterious accident leaves him paralyzed. Awaiting his return, his mother, Karmen (Camille Keaton), and younger sister, Ashley (Jade Risser), remain unaware of the details of the accident and severity of Brad‘s condition. Once he arrives, though he looks sickly, his family members are pleased to see him alive and don’t bring attention to his ill appearance. Over the next twenty-six hours Brad’s condition terribly worsens, barreling down to a gruesome conclusion that will change the family forever.
The cast may not look like that average American family you see in movies but they show a realness of the probable American family. Backyard wrestlers, tatoo artists, single parenthood are clearly written from what we know and not from what we see. Our characters are all likeable and some are designed to be annoying as hell. So whose who to meet our war hero Brad?
- Our mom, our single parent who tries to keep the family together
- Ashley, Brad's sister a dance student who cares deeply for her war torn bro
- Bruce, Brad's bro a tattoo artist with a wife and kid of his own
- Gavyn, Ashley's BF and aspiring DJ
- We meet Bruce's wife and a few friends as minors as well
As the movie progresses Brad falls apart ala the Brundle in The Fly. Bleeding ears, oozing from every orifice and he loses taste for all food. It's a slow deterioration and the effects are to be applauded. If there is one thing you can count on with Toe Tag it's the non CGI effects and makeup.
This leads to a frenzy conclusion where Brad descends into an infected zombie monster and starts your kills. And the kills are fuckin top notch. Beheadings, ripped mouths and a poor dog are on display for you gore addicted cinephiles. Buckets of blood are on display and carnage to the max and when it did, I was chanting "Toe Tag! Toe Tag!" in my head.
It's clear Vogel and his team are making a statement about the effects of war on our soldiers. We get different POV about pro and anti war and the psychological effects of seeing human fatalities on a large scale. The government is painted as a vague evil which hints on an explanation but I found it not necessary.
Watching Sella Turcia (which is a less know medical condition consisting of tumors from the pituitary gland) your watching the heavy toll of war. Damien Maruscak does a great job as Brad and his recounting of war stories makes you feel like you were there. Some soldiers come home with physical trauma which is a hardship in itself. But the mental trauma is clearly more horrible it seems. Sella Turcica explores both and then amplifies the physical with an ending that will give you the heebeejeebees.
My few gripes about the film is that at times it delves into film fodder. Some conversations could have been clearly removed and some were too much character development. Gavyn is the token black guy and comes off as the only asshole though he says what's on most of our minds. I also would have intercut Brad falling apart earlier for some suspense. But those are only a few snags for a film that was made for about $20k.
It's one of the top 20 movies I've seen this year. It may not be as infamous as Toe Tag's previous, but it may probably be the best all around flick they've ever put out.
Fulci inspired trauma
A tastefully done sex scene (umm what the hell was that Toe Tag?)
Brad's head says hi
The Jaded Viewer's Final Prognosis
If your a fan of Toe Tag, you need to see probably their best coherent film to date. It hits on all cylinders from characters, to plot, to gore effects and to theme. I'm looking forward to what they do next and as an indie horror fan, you should to.