Toronto After Dark Review: The Hexecutioners
Sometime in the (near) future, home euthanasia can be carried out by what one character called “death doulas”. The Hexecutioners opens on the lead character Malison’s, played by Liv Collins, first day. And it doesn’t go well. To help her get over that experience, her boss sends her on an out of town job with a more experienced technician, Olivia Bletcher who is played by Sarah Power (Pawter Simma from Killjoys and credits in Repo the Genetic Opera as well as Saw V).
Before leaving on the trip, Malison loses her apartment, lets her cat go, and has all her worldly possessions in a Buick station wagon with fake wood panelling. She then picks up Olivia, whose first question is can she smoke. Despite a fractious start, it looks like the two might become friends. And then they arrive at the mansion of Milos Somborac – at the Q&A the director said that it was the setting that inspired the story. There is an assistant, Edgar, played by Wil Burd who looks like a close relation to genre king Julian Richings. He offers vague warnings and promises more details in the morning.
This client has asked, and paid handsomely, for special dispensation. So this death will not be the usual injection. As in all good gothic tales, there is much more going on here than first meets the eye. And the first impression is creepy to start with.
I was not a fan of Foresight Features’ prior work, including writer Tony Burgess’s prior project Septic Man (Toronto After Dark 2013). Unlike that film, this film skips the gore and gross-out and goes for stylized creepy. There are jump scares, but that’s not the focus. There is a strong relationship formed between the women, even if the wardrobe department went a little extreme on the virgin/whore dichotomy. I was pleasantly surprised when Olivia chastised Malison for using the term hysterical to describe herself after she fainted when arriving at menacing manor.
As for atmosphere, the house is only lit by candles, there is a cedar maze, and of course nightmarish dreams. Then there’s the death cult and direct references to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The Director of Photography Karl Janisse, said they used a steady cam to follow Malison to give her a more ethereal, supernatural feel, while Olivia, who was less affected by the house, was followed by a shoulder cam to provide contrast.
Since it was a locally made film, the Q&A was well attended by the director Jesse Cooke, the writer (and actor) Tony Burgess, the two main actresses, the composer, Steph Copeland, the DP, and some of the supporting cast. This film was conceived, shot, and put on screen in a six month window. As was mentioned several times at the Q&A, the film came from post 30 hours before the screening. The shoot in Owen Sound was 16 days. Maybe this team works better with tight constraints.
So for those who like creepy little films with amazing settings, they announced last night that Anchor Bay has picked up The HEXECUTIONERS for distribution.
A slow burn involves an amazingly gothic location, a creepy backstory, and a death ritual. What more do you want from local gothic?