Review: ‘The Forever Purge,’ starring Josh Lucas, Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda and Will Patton

June 30, 2021

by Carla Hay

Leven Rambin in “The Forever Purge” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

“The Forever Purge”

Directed by Everardo Valerio Gout

Some language in Spanish with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Texas and Mexico, the horror film “The Forever Purge” features a cast of mostly Latino and white people (with a few black people and Native Americans) representing the wealthy, middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: Two families—one wealthy and white, the other working-class and Mexican—try to stay alive when a violent mob of white supremacists go on a killing spree targeting people who aren’t white and people who don’t agree with the mob.

Culture Audience: “The Forever Purge” will appeal primarily to people who want to see formulaic, violent movies that have the worst racist hate crimes as gimmicks.

Jeffrey Doornbos and Ana de la Reguera in “The Forever Purge” (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

Completely predictable and lacking in substance, “The Forever Purge” tries to come across as a horror movie with a social conscience about racism. The movie is really just a badly written gorefest that uses racist hate crimes as a hook. The heroes in the movie have forgettable personalities, while the villains are so over-the-top with their hate speech that they seem almost like a cringeworthy parody of racism. The violence in the movie becomes so repetitive that it lessens any intended impact of being surprising or scary.

“The Forever Purge” is the fifth movie in the horror series that began with 2013’s “The Purge” and continued with 2014’s “The Purge: Anarchy,” 2016’s “The Purge: Election Year” and 2018’s “The First Purge.” The basic premise of each movie is that in a fictional version of the United States, all crime is legal once a year on a designated day, for a 12-hour period. The 12-hour legal crime spree is from dusk until dawn. This legal crime period is called the Purge, because the idea is that if people who are inclined to commit crimes had one day a year to purge their worst actions out of their system, then crime would decrease for the rest of the year. During the Purge, police and other emergency services are not available.

It’s a concept for a horror franchise (which also spawned the 2018-2019 “The Purge” TV series) that has been stretched so thin, that now “The Forever Purge” has ripped that concept apart. In “The Forever Purge,” which takes place mostly in Texas, the 12-hour legal crime period still happens. However, a group of white supremacist marauders have decided that the Purge will no longer have a time limit for them, as they continue with their crime spree to hunt and kill people who aren’t white. These rogue racists have a particular hatred for non-white immigrants.

Directed by Everardo Valerio Gout and written by James DeMonaco (who has written all “The Purge” movies so far), “The Forever Purge” has two protagonist families who represent two different versions of the American Dream. One is a white family who has lived in the United States for generations and has accumulated wealth. The other is a Mexican immigrant family who has relocated to the U.S. in search of better opportunities and a safer life.

The Tucker clan is a family of ranchers living in a large compound in an unnamed Texas city that’s near the Mexican border. Widowed patriarch Caleb (played by Will Patton) is a kind and generous boss to the ranch’s employees, who are mostly Mexican immigrants. Caleb’s son Dylan (played by Josh Lucas) is mistrustful of people who aren’t from the same racial and social class as he is.

Caleb’s other child is his daughter Harper (played by Leven Rambin), who is more like her father than Dylan is, because she doesn’t have racist tendencies. Dylan and his wife Cassie (played by Cassidy Freeman) are expecting their first child together. They don’t know yet what gender the child is, but Cassie is about eight or nine months pregnant.

Meanwhile, a Mexican couple in their 30s named Adela (played by Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (played by Tenoch Huerta) have crossed over the border into Texas as undocumented immigrants in search of the American Dream. They are also seeking a safer place to live, since where they used to live in Mexico has been overrun with drug cartels. Juan finds work as a ranch hand at the Tucker ranch. Adela becomes a cook at a restaurant.

Early on in the movie, it’s shown that Dylan is a jerk who thinks Mexicans are inferior. He likes to wrongfully accuse the Mexican workers of committing an employee violation, and he threatens to fire them to instill fear into them. One of the Mexican workers is a young man named T.T. (played by Alejandro Edda), who is Juan’s closest friend at the ranch.

Dylan has a particular dislike of Juan, who is kind of like a “horse whisperer” for the ranch. There’s a scene near the beginning of the movie that shows how Dylan tried and failed to get a stubborn horse under his control during training, and the horse knocked Dylan to to ground. However, Juan was able to easily calm the horse into submission.

Caleb respects Juan, who is a responsible and hard-working employee, and that makes Dylan jealous of Juan. Dylan tries to intimidate Juan with a false accusation of being tardy, but Juan remains unrattled. However, it’s the type of harassment that Juan can longer tolerate. Juan tries to talk to Caleb about Dylan’s animosity, by candidly telling Caleb that he thinks that Dylan doesn’t like Mexicans.

Caleb’s denies it and says, “I always taught my son to be a proud American. Maybe I didn’t really teach him what that meant. I don’t even know what that means anymore. The world is changing all around us. We are at each other’s throats. Confusing times.”

“The Forever Purge” keeps hammering this point with all the subtlety of a jackhammer on full blast. Within the first 10 minutes of the movie, there’s a series of news voiceovers that report how issues over Mexican immigration have caused increasingly violent tensions in the United States. White supremacist hate crimes, which the perpetrators try to disguise as “patriotism,” are on the rise against non-white immigrants.

As a result, the U.S. government has re-instated the Purge, which had been banned at the end of “The Purge: Election Year.” (“The First Purge” was a prequel to “The Purge.”) All crimes will still be legal for the designated 12-hour period, but government officials are not allowed to be crime victims during the Purge. It’s a precaution to prevent any assassinations of high-ranking leaders.

This re-instated Purge will begin 10 months after Adela and Juan have arrived in the United States. In the days leading up to this Purge resurrection, an anti-Purge activist named Chiago Harjo (played by Zahn McClarnon), who’s identified in the media as a “Texas tribal leader,” has been giving TV interviews denouncing the Purge. And that’s how “The Forever Purge” makes it easy to know that Chiago is going to end up joining forces with the movie’s protagonists in fighting the racist villains of the story.

On the day before the Purge begins again, Dylan, Cassie and Harper are having dinner with two friends who are a married couple: Dalton Levay (played by Joshua Dov) and Emily Levay (played by Annie Little). Earlier that day, Dalton had invited Dylan and Cassie to stay with the Levay family during their Purge lockdown, but Dylan declined the offer. His reason? “I hate the damn Purge. It’s hard to be social on that night, but thank you for the invite.”

During dinner, Emily says that if Cassie and Dylan need a nanny for their soon-to-be-born child, then she suggests hiring the sister of Emily’s nanny Anna. Dylan declines that offer too, because he says that they don’t need a nanny. Anna (played by Lupé Carranza) happens to be nearby with one of the Levay kids, and Dylan notices that Anna and the child are speaking Spanish to each other.

Dylan blurts out another reason why he doesn’t want Anna’s sister to be a nanny for him and Cassie: “I don’t know if I want our kids to be speaking Spanish in this house.” Cassie, Harper and Emily look shocked and embarrassed at this bigoted comment. However, Dylan is the type of racist who doesn’t think he’s racist.

As he says later in the movie to Juan: “I don’t think white people are better than anyone else … but we should just stick to our own.” It’s the type of racist mindset that historically has made racial segregation legal, by saying that society should be “separate but equal” when it comes to race. The problem with the “separate but equal” argument is that the U.S. was built on the very unequal system of white supremacy, where slavery and racial segregation were legal, and white people were given better access to resources such as education, housing, job opportunities and health care.

It’s easy for someone like Dylan (who’s already wealthy) to say “separate but equal” when he has privileges that give him more advantages in life than people who don’t have the same privileges. It’s a message that “The Forever Purge” attempts to convey in a very superficial manner. “The Forever Purge” ultimately abandons this message when the movie devolves into a typical violent free-for-all with deadly shootings, stabbings and other types of violent murders.

The day before the Purge, Caleb gives each of the ranch employees a cash bonus, to help them fund whatever defense methods they need for the Purge. A ranch hand named Kirk (played by Will Brittain), who appears to be the only white employee of the Tucker family, snarls after taking the cash: “I know what I’m using my money for—and it’s not for protection.” And when Kirk gripes to the other ranch hands that the Tucker family is just using the employees as “slave labor,” it’s an obvious foreshadowing of what comes later in the movie when the Tuckers become victims of a home invasion.

During the Purge, the Tucker family is on lockdown by having bulletproof barriers that can be lowered over their doors and windows. The Tucker property also has an extensive video surveillance system that Dylan monitors. Meanwhile, Adela and Juan stay at a public lockdown facility that is protected by armed guards. There seem to be many other Spanish-speaking immigrants at this facility.

Adela is curious about what Purge night looks like outside, so she goes up on the building’s roof where some armed guards are keeping vigil. One of the guards advises her to go back inside the building, as the sounds of gunshots and explosions ring through the air. Adela says to him, “There are parts of Mexico that sound like this every night.”

While looking out on the streets below, Adela is alarmed to see a truck with the words “Purge Purfication” emblazoned on the side. A recording blares from the truck’s loudspeakers: “We will no longer tolerate foreigners raping and pillaging the United States of America! We will find you and disinfect you! America will be American once again!”

She also sees that there’s a black man being held captive inside the truck. He looks like he’s being assaulted and will probably be killed. However, the crime that Adela is witnessing is legal, because it’s happening during the Purge. The tragedy of the situation still shocks her though.

Later, when Adela shows weapons skills that a typical cook would not have, it should come as no surprise when she reveals that it’s because when she was in Mexico, she was part of a group of women who fought drug cartels. This isn’t spoiler information, because the only real spoilers for this obvious movie is revealing who lives and who dies during the violent mayhem that ensues.

After the Purge ends for the year, people think their lives have gone back to normal. But there would be no “The Forever Purge” movie if that happened. Not long after the Purge ends, there’s still a large presence of white supremacists going around in groups and committing hate crimes. The Purge Purification truck is part of a nationwide Purge Purification movement that doesn’t want the Purge to end. Their motto (which they repeat to the point of stupidity) is “Forever After Purge.”

Adela finds out the hard way when she sees an abandoned goat in a cage in a back alley and tries to rescue it. It’s a trap, of course, and the two white supremacists who set the trap try to kill her. Adela is saved by a Good Samaritan named Darius (played by Sammi Rotibi), who is African American. Together, Darius and Adela kill their attackers in self-defense.

And as soon as this deadly battle ends, guess who suddenly shows up at the scene? Two cops, who weren’t around when they were needed. The cops quickly arrest Adela and Darius, who protest and say they were acting in self-defense. Their proclamations of innocence are ignored, so Adela and Darius end up in the back of a police van with some other people who’ve been arrested.

One of those other people just happens to be a mentally unhinged neo-Nazi skinhead (played by Edward Gelhaus), who has a swastika tattooed on his left cheek. By this time, the city has become a chaotic and violent mess, with gunshots heard everywhere. In one of the more laughably ludicrous parts of the movie, the neo-Nazi begins identifying the types of guns being used, based on the gunshots that are heard.

“Listen to that bass!” the Nazi crows like a loon about the gunshots. “Homegrown music from the heartland right there! That’s American music, motherfucker!” Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Every lunatic racist group in a movie like this needs a leader, and in “The Forever Purge,” it’s Elijah Hardin (played by Jeffrey Doornbos), who spouts white supremacist rhetoric that sounds like it came straight from the Ku Klux Klan Handbook of Clichés. Elijah has an equally nasty wife named Mother Hardin (played by Susie Abromeit), who’s intent on proving that women can be just as dangerous as men when it comes to violent racism.

“The Forever Purge” has a very unsurprising storyline of the protagonists being separated from their spouses and trying to find them in the chaos. And that means that Dylan and Juan end up working together for a common goal, which leads to Dylan’s inevitable change of heart in how he feels about Mexicans. There’s also a part of the movie where the protagonists trie to flee to safety in Mexico, which is an obvious ironic flip to show Americans what it would be like to be refugees seeking asylum in another country.

The violence just becomes filler before the movie’s hackneyed conclusion. “The Forever Purge” has a lot of action, but it’s so unimaginative and easy to predict that it ends up becoming very tedious after a while. The acting is nothing spectacular, mainly because almost all of the characters have no real depth and often utter moronic dialogue during the fight scenes. Now that “The Forever Purge” filmmakers have destroyed the series’ original concept so that the mayhem of the Purge now has no time limit, this once-unique movie franchise has just become another run-of-the-mill slasher flick series.

Universal Pictures will release “The Forever Purge” in U.S. cinemas on July 2, 2021.

Review: ‘A Deadly Legend,’ starring Corbin Bernsen, Judd Hirsch, Lori Petty, Kristen Anne Ferraro, Dwayne Thomas, Summer Crockett Moore and Tatiana Szpur

August 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

Kristen Anne Ferraro in “A Deadly Legend” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“A Deadly Legend” 

Directed by Pamela Moriarty

Culture Representation: Taking place in the fictional Pilgrim County somewhere in the United States, the horror flick “A Deadly Legend” has a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Asians and one Latino) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A group of people encounter a curse that’s lasted for centuries and involves a vengeful witch.

Culture Audience: “A Deadly Legend” will appeal primarily to people who like low-budget horror films that are so bad that they’re almost hilarious.

Summer Crockett Moore and Daniella DeCaro in “A Deadly Legend” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

The horror film “A Deadly Legend” is so amateurly made that it looks like something that people from a community theater decided to do in order to get a feature film credit on their résumés. “A Deadly Legend” is the first feature film directed by Pamela Moriarty and written by Eric Wolf—and that lack of experience shows in every single minute of this sloppily made film. Kristen Anne Ferraro, who produced “A Deadly Legend,” also stars as the movie’s main protagonist, which explains why she has the lead role. It’s a lot easier to cast yourself as the star of a movie when you’re paying for the film.

And it seems like much of the budget was spent in hiring the cast’s veteran actors who have name recognition: Corbin Bernsen (of “L.A. Law” fame), Judd Hirsch (of “Taxi” fame) and Lori Petty (of “Tank Girl” and “A League of Their Own” fame), whose best career days are behind them if they’re now taking supporting roles in this type of bottom-of-the-barrel movie. Their level of experience is even more noticeable in “A Deadly Legend,” where they’re surrounded by people whose acting is so horrible, it makes Kim Kardashian in a movie look like the next Meryl Streep.

“A Deadly Legend” is a little overstuffed with characters, but the plot is fairly simple because it’s so derivative of dozens of other horror movies that have come before it: Some people uncover a longtime curse that involves a witch who’s out for revenge. And, of course, most of the horror happens when people are gathered in an isolated house. (The movie, which takes place in an unnamed state in the U.S., was actually filmed in New York state.)

The story takes place in the fictional Pilgrim County, where construction company owner Joan Huntar (played by Ferraro) and her lawyer Raj (played by Shravan Amin) are about to head into an important town council meeting. Joan and Raj want the town council to approve a major project for Huntar Construction: It’s the Pilgrim Lake Luxury Homes Project, where they plan to build homes in an undeveloped rural area. Joan and Raj are desperate for the town council’s approval for this project, since Huntar Construction is in dire financial straits and needs this project to stay in business.

At the town council meeting, one citizen is extremely vocal in expressing his disapproval of the project: Carl Turner (played by Hirsch), who owns an antiques store in town. Carl warns everyone at the meeting what will happen if construction breaks ground in the planned project area: “You’ll unleash what’s been buried for centuries!” Also at the meeting is longtime Pilgrim Lake resident Matthias Leary (played by Bernsen), who owns a crystal mineral shop in town. Despite Carl’s protest, the town council approves the project.

Joan is a widow with two teenage children: Krissy (played by Andee Buccheri) and her older brother Connor (played by John Pope). They are still grieving over the loss of Joan’s husband Bob (played by Jeffrey Doornbus), who died in a car accident. The car crash, which happened one night on a deserted road, is shown in the beginning of the movie to establish that something evil is lurking is Pilgrim County.

Bob was driving the car, and the passengers were Joan, Krissy and Krissy’s teenage cousin Amy Jones (played by Daniella DeCaro), when a young red-haired woman dressed in a white flowing dress suddenly appeared in the road. The car crashed when Bob tried to avoid hitting this mystery woman. It should come as no surprise to the audience that this woman is the ghost of a witch. The witch calls herself Luci (played by Tatiana Szpur), and she shows up again many times for the rest of the movie. (The movie reveals Luci’s backstory in a flashback scene that takes place in 1720.)

Ultimately, most of the movie’s characters end up in a remote lodge near the construction site, as construction begins for the Pilgrim Lake Luxury Homes Project. Because this is a low-budget film, the “construction” consists of one man operating a bulldozer. The lone construction worker on the site is a beer-guzzling roughneck named Mike Renfield (played by Eric Wolf), who is kept company by his kooky platonic female friend Wanda (played by Petty). Wanda brings some comic relief to the story, because it’s a running joke in the movie that Wanda keeps asking people if they have any beer.

Of course, the body count starts to pile up in this group of people who are at the lodge. In addition to Joan, Krissy, Connor and Amy, the other family members at the lodge are Bob’s sister/Joan’s sister-in-law Tina Jones (played by Summer Crockett Moore) and her husband Sam Jones (played by Dwayne A. Thomas), who are Amy’s parents. Sam works for Huntar Construction and is Mike’s no-nonsense immediate supervisor. Tina fancies herself to be a psychic—she holds a candlelit séance with the teenagers while wearing a T-shirt that says “I’m Not Weird. I’m Paranormal.”

Two other teenagers are also on the premises: quiet and mysterious Eli Leary (who is described as Matthias Leary’s grandson) and the outgoing and athletic Derek Rodriguez (played by Alan Pontes), who is Krissy’s love interest. Also at the lodge are attorney Raj and his divorced girlfriend Eva Chan (played by Jean Tree), who confides in Joan during a “girls talk” that Raj “saved” her from an abusive husband.

The pacing of “A Deadly Legend” sometimes drags, the dialogue is mostly forgettable, and the acting by most of this movie’s cast is so “train wreck” bad that it really is comical at times. Luci the witch is supposed to be terrifying, but Szpur’s sluggish portrayal makes Luci look like a Victorian Goth girl who’s taken too many opioid pills.

At least Petty brings some laughs as the somewhat unnecessary character of Wanda, because Wanda is so goofy that her personality is a welcome distraction from this often-boring film. But most of the other intentional humor in the movie falls very flat.

At one point in the story, Mike the construction worker is suspected of being up to no good, so his supervisor Sam goes to confront him. When some of the other people warn Sam that Mike could be dangerous, Sam replies, “I’m his boss. If he hasn’t killed me by now, he never will.” That’s what supposed to pass for humor in this awful movie.

And the visual effects are so messy and cheap-looking that they make the intended horror look very unconvincing. “A Deadly Legend” also makes a bizarre attempt to look “edgy” in a scene where someone has a nightmarish vision that shows an incestuous kiss between Joan and her son Connor, who exchange a large squid-like creature in their mouths during the kiss. It looks like a dumb stunt placed in the movie for “shock” effect. Ultimately, “A Deadly Legend” commits the worst sin of all for a horror movie: There is absolutely nothing scary about this terrible film.

Gravitas Ventures released “A Deadly Legend” on digital and VOD on July 24, 2020.

Review: ‘I Hate the Man in My Basement,’ starring Chris Marquette, Manny Montana and Nora-Jane Noone

March 11, 2020

by Carla Hay

Chris Marquette in “I Hate the Man in My Basement” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

“I Hate the Man in My Basement”

Directed by Dustin Cook

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city, the drama/thriller “I Hate the Man in My Basement” has a predominantly white cast of characters (with some Latino and African American representation), mostly representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A widower has imprisoned a man his basement.

Culture Audience: This movie will appeal primarily to people who like to discover suspenseful independent movies that are compelling character studies rather than gory revenge thrillers.

Chris Marquette and Nora-Jane Noone in “I Hate the Man in My Basement” (Photo courtesy of Gravitas Ventures)

It won’t be a shock to find out the full reason why seemingly mild-mannered Claude Vaughn (played by Chris Marquette) is secretly imprisoning a man in his basement. The details are revealed about two-thirds of the way into the film. But it’s easy to figure out that revenge is the motive, once it’s established early on in the film that Claude is a lonely widower who’s grieving over his wife’s death, which happened eight months before this story takes place.

Claude, who’s in his 30s, is a salesman at a nondescript office in an unnamed U.S. city. His prisoner is a young man named Logan Kirby (played by Manny Montana), who’s kept chained to the basement by his neck. Claude has such animosity toward Logan that he won’t let Logan finish talking when Logan tells Claude in a pleading voice that he’s sorry and “I didn’t mean to do it.” When Logan still tries to talk, Claude reacts by punching Logan repeatedly in the face. And when Claude gives Logan food, he shoves the food toward Logan on a plate like someone would shove food toward a despised person with a contagious disease.

At work, Claude gives the appearance that he’s trying to move on with his life since his wife’s death. (How she died is revealed later in the movie.) His obnoxious and nosy co-worker Riley (played by Jeffrey Doornbos) sets Claude up on a blind date, so that they can go double dating with Riley and his wife. Claude is reluctant but gives in because Riley is so persistent.

Riley is the type of married guy who wants to hear details of his single co-workers’ love lives. He’s upfront in telling Claude that he thinks it’s time for Claude to get back into the dating scene. And Riley says he chose the blind date for Claude because she came across as “horny” and willing to do whatever.

The date is for a private salsa-dancing class. When Claude first meets his blind date—a chatty and needy redhead named Soria (played by Trisha LaFache)—she immediately gives him a big hug and says in a sympathetic voice, “I’m sorry,” to indicate that she’s aware that his wife has died. But when they get to the small dance studio, Claude and the dance instructor Kyra (played by Nora-Jane Noone) look at each other in a way that makes it obvious that they’re immediately attracted to each other.

Soria is oblivious though, and when she sprains her ankle during the dance lesson, the date is cut short. While Claude drives Soria back to her place, she blurts out that she hasn’t had much luck in her love life lately, because the last three guys she dated were married, but she didn’t know they were married until it was too late. Claude helps Soria into her home, and she immediately lunges at him to plant an aggressive kiss on Claude. He’s so freaked out that he pushes her off and runs out the door.

However, that doesn’t mean he’s not ready to date someone. He drives by Kyra’s dance studio and is terrified to see that she’s outside and has noticed his car drive by, so he ducks down, hoping that she didn’t see him. When this happens again on another day, she signals to Claude to come over.

At first, Claude awkwardly denies that he’d done a drive-by on another day, but then he admits it when it’s clear that Kyra is interested in Claude. She’s funny, sarcastic and witty. And she can also see that he’s very nervous. It isn’t until Kyra says to Claude that she was wondering when he was going to ask her out on a date that he gets up the nerve to ask her if she would be interested in having dinner with him sometime. Of course, she says yes.

Claude has moments of being socially awkward, uptight and emotionally aloof. On his first date with Kyra (at a fast-food Asian restaurant), he finds that her sense of humor makes him feel more comfortable. She opens up and tells him that she’s divorced (she says that she was married for less than a year to a man who was a compulsive masturbator), while Claude tells her that he’s a widower. Kyra thinks he’s joking at first, but is mortified when she realizes that he’s telling the truth. (She doesn’t ask Claude how his wife died.)

After that first date, Claude comes home and tearfully tells his prisoner Logan in one of the movie’s best scenes: “I had a date tonight and I enjoyed it and I feel awful.” It’s a turning point for Claude, because after being numb from grief, he’s starting to possibly feel love again—and it scares and confuses Claude.

Because Claude is starting to feel more vulnerable and human, he begins to treat Logan a little better. He buys Logan better-quality food. (Instead of frozen meals, he starts giving Claude fresh meals.) And later on in the story, he even gives Logan a book to read so his prisoner won’t be bored.

At different points in the story, viewers also find out that Claude has been visiting a police detective named Detective McGee (played by Cyrus Farmer) under the pretense of trying to help find the man whom Claude has been secretly keeping as a prisoner. Based on what McGee says, the man was a low-life criminal who disappeared, which the detective doesn’t find too surprising because of the guy’s dangerous lifestyle. Although it’s not shown in the movie, based on the conversation that McGee has with Claude, he’s become irritated with Claude for being a little too eager to help find this missing person. He tells Claude to let it go and that the police will handle the investigation.

Meanwhile, Claude ends up visiting Logan’s mother, Molly Kirby (played by Robin Dale Meyers), a hard-edged cynic who lives in a trailer. At first, she thinks he’s a detective, but he tells her he’s not. Based on what she tells Claude (“I wasn’t the most nurturing of mothers”), she’s neither surprised nor too concerned that her son Logan has disappeared. As for Logan’s father, Molly laughs when she tells Claude that Logan’s father isn’t in their lives and compares her situation to the women who go on the “Maury” talk show to get paternity tests done. As they near the end of the conversation, Molly asks Claude who he is, and he just tells her his first name.

The reason for Claude trying to insert himself into this missing-person investigation is likely to find out how much information the police might know. But the way it’s portrayed in the movie, it’s clear that he also feels a certain amount of guilt for being responsible for this disappearance.

However, Claude has a ruthless side too, because when he’s alone in his office, he’s shown talking on the phone to clients in an abusive and condescending manner. It’s a psychological tactic he uses to make the clients fear him so he can get what he wants from them. It’s also a look at a well-hidden side to his personality that would be capable of kidnapping and torturing a man.

As the mysterious prisoner Logan Kirby, actor Montana is a standout in the cast. Whatever horrible things that Logan did in his past, Montana brings depth and humanity to the role. He’s able to portray in subtle ways that during his imprisonment, Logan goes on his own journey of painful introspection about his actions and how he reached this point in his life.

Claude also has his own type of reckoning, as he reaches an emotional crisis by hiding this dark secret while unexpectedly entering into this new relationship with Kyra that is bringing some light into his life. The three actors at the center of this story (Marquette, Montana and Noone) do a very good job at portraying their characters. Noone’s portrayal of Kyra brings a lot of comic relief to the film, since Kyra has a sardonic-but-endearing sense of humor.

“I Hate the Man in My Basement” (written and directed by Dustin Cook) is Cook’s first feature-length movie. It’s an intense story that’s worth seeking out if you like movies that explore the dark sides of humanity. Cook has a lot of great potential, considering that the quality of this low-budget indie film surpasses a lot of mindless movies that are released with considerably larger budgets.

If you know a lot about true crime cases where people commit heinous acts and keep terrible secrets, it’s entirely believable how this movie’s characters deal with legal and ethical dilemmas. Although many people might think to themselves that they would never act that way, the moral of the story is that people don’t really know what extreme things they might do until they’re pushed to the edge.

Gravitas Ventures released “I Hate the Man in My Basement” on digital and VOD on March 9, 2020.