The Rizen Review

The Rizen is a sci-fi horror film about NATO and the Allied Forces in the 1950s who have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race.

Really, the only word that best describes Matt Mitchell‘s creepy horror thriller The Rizen is campy. Aggressively so. This is a film working on a whole other level of strange, combining purposefully uncomfortable visuals with purposefully uncomfortable acting with a bizarre story in a peculiar setting in order to create a kind of unsettling experience that is meant to leave us unsure how to take it. As a low budget chiller, it has several good ideas, and certainly commits to its unusual style, however never quite pulls off what it intends with significant impact.

Set in 1955, it opens on an intriguing image, that of an unconscious young woman (Laura Swift) being dragged down a dark underground corridor by a humanoid creature with a bandaged head. She wakens and instead of panicking, quickly assesses the situation and takes to overcoming the beast and beating it senseless. Finding papers in her pockets, she learns she is a cook named Frances and soon comes upon a man in a lab coat named Professor Richard Baughman (Christopher Tajah), and then they eventually find Briggs (Patrick Knowles), a soldier in handcuffs. They find themselves lost in a labyrinth of dank and weakly-lit hallways where they keep stumbling upon these same creatures, with each experiencing flashbacks that begin to fill in the blanks about who they are and why they are here.

Far less a horror movie than a mystery, there are a few gruesome moments as the movie slowly reveals its secrets, one that involves on a bit of evil government experimentation in their efforts to win the Cold War. However, this is much more a narrative story, one that centers around Francis as she pieces together the truth. Admittedly, she makes for a strong character, though the idea of a female super warrior is not unique, however the setting, devoid of flashy technology, makes it a bit more interesting. Mitchell, who also wrote the screenplay, clearly is a fan of the Resident Evil video game series, and as such, draws plenty of parallels along the way. These corridors are full of beasties straight out of that franchise.

Bound to its setting though, the film loses momentum as it traces along the same dreary, sometimes blood-soaked halls, often cast in deep shadow and florescent light. It anchors itself to flashbacks, which ultimately weighs it down, though the real problem is that it simply can’t get out from under the generic formula of the genre. While it’s easy to appreciate Mitchell’s unique approach and the decidedly quirky graphic-novel-esque visuals throughout, there’s not much energy, the film relying on long tracks of conversational exposition.

That said, I really like Swift, who embraces Francis and her dilemma well, she clearly the best thing going here. She plays it seriously and while the film lacks the budget to truly let her go big, she does good work. I also like a few visual flares Mitchell manages to toss in the mix, some that prove he’s more than capable of tackling a bigger project if given the opportunity. The Rizen is not a failure, more like an experiment, a testing ground, and as a sequel is already in the works, perhaps suggest we won’t have long to wait in seeing what Mitchell can do.

The Rizen Review

Movie description: The Rizen is a sci-fi horror film about NATO and the Allied Forces in the 1950s who have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race.

Director(s): Matt Mitchell

Actor(s): Laura Swift, Patrick Knowles, Christopher Tajah

Genre: Horror

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