With Halloween Beckoning, Indie Horror Thrillers from Blockbuster “Get Out” to Inventive “Face of Evil” Make for Repeat Viewings

“Get Out” — A young African-American visits his white girlfriend’s parents, but as the weekend progresses, disturbing discoveries lead him into a nightmare encounter…

“Face of Evil (FOE)” — A war vet returns home from the Middle East, but a mysterious epidemic breaks out and infects his friends, and his nightmare just begins..,

A weekend party in the country, and a July 4th celebration for a returning vet, are two innocent-looking social get-togethers, the type that Americans celebrate all the time. Laissez les bons temps rouler, right? Until the shadow of mayhem appears amongst the drinks and good times, and fear and paranoia kick in.

Hello, Darkness, my old friend!

The incredibly chilling Face of Evil poster features a simple but abstract image of a two blood red eyes and a grinning mouth. Vito Dinatolo, FOE’s filmmaker and first-time feature director, says the inspiration of his movie was that terrifying image he had dreamed up in his pretty happy childhood. He explains:

“When I was a kid, I had a dream, very vivid and particular, given the look of the infected, ghostly white face, yellow frowning eyes and evil sneer. Since then I’ve had other dream/nightmares, but that one stuck in my mind, and since I always liked horror, and cinema, 2 plus 2 equals 4, therefore, when it was the right time, I decided to make a horror and adopt that look I had dreamed of — the face of evil.”

Meanwhile another first-time director, heretofore comedian Jordan Peele, made a major splash earlier this year with the release of his own horror thriller, Get Out, which killed at the box office. It took its innovative writer/director into a whole other sphere.

While both movies were on a different scale — for example, a seasoned well=known actors versus talented but unknown actors, and a small vs a miniscule budget — they share aspects that are common to entertaining indie horror movies.

Get Out is an adept, complex, genre hybrid that’s both hilarious and unsettling, often at the same time. When Peele, who came from the Key & Peele sketch comedy duo, first introduced his movie, he described it as being an attempt to do a movie he hadn’t seen before.

Similarly, Dinatolo describes FOE as a inventive hybrid, suggesting:

“My goal was to make a horror movie and have fun. I was going for a cross genre movie, to draw a broader audience and give different emotions. The movie starts as a comedy, like most typical horror movies with a bunch of young people hanging out, the perfect setup for what’s to come — the film becomes scary when the mysterious infection outbreak starts. Yet I still wanted to keep the sarcasm layer, which makes the difference in a good horror movie, as people always want to laugh a bit, even in scary moments — kind of like a bitter/sweet symphony. I’ve always felt that comedy is part of daily horror.”

Especially, here in our Trumpian world. You have to laugh or you’d cry!

Sure enough, when I first viewed Face of Evil, myself, I asked, What the hell did I just watch? It was in a word, unsettling. I love classic horrors like The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. But I also like the dark humor that today’s psychological thrillers have. I especially dig horror with a WTF-factor, with a bloody splash of clever irony like the Swedish movie Let the Right One In or Get Out.

FOE’s Writer/Director Dinatolo scooping up awards

Face of Evil, with its spooky poster and mish-mash of genres, has that WTF-factor. It presents itself as a genre zombie scarefest, then its second half twists like a dagger in the ribs, and deals with the horrors of PTSD and general societal paranoia about Big Brother, terrorism and even Trump’s daily Pandora’s box of what-the-fuck-just-happened?

And, the movie had a great run on the independent film fest circuit, including: Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival; Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards; Hollywood International Moving Picture Film Festival (Best Horror Feature, Best Director); Culver City Film Festival (Best Horror Feature); New York City International Film Festival (Best Horror Feature); Silicon Beach Film Fest; Venice (Best Sound Design); Action On Film Festival; Las Vegas (Best Action Scene); Salento International Film Festival, Italy.

Growing up in Italy, Dinatolo admits he loved Asian martial arts and monster movies more than anything else. He confesses:

“Oh, yes, I loved stupid comedy too, but what kid doesn’t. Today, it’s not that I don’t like other genres, I do, but action and drama are part of every genre a bit. As for comedy, it’s a necessary ingredient for a good horror recipe, right?”
Private Williams on the run from his demons
Private Williams and Sarge (R): “This is Hell, son…”

He also hopes his own cross-background offers something unique:

“I hope I offer the creativity and sensibility of my European background with the practicality, technique and ‘let’s do it’ American attitude, which I’ve learned in the last twenty years and brought into my work. In particular, the golden age of Italian cinema in the 50–60s has brought a new realism to the eyes of cinema. Not to mention the spaghetti western genre by Leone, who created a style, more than a genre, meaning his style legacy is visible in many genres now. Also, in the 70s, Italian horror was the new wave. I’d like to think I carry a bit of all that in my DNA. But believe me, Americans do things very well. The greatness of the good ol’ US of A is that our language — I say ours because I’m part of it now — is a universal language, understood and appreciated by every culture, because there are visual parameters and way of communicating that are common denominator of most, if not all cultures.”

Another essential element, especially as a true indie filmmaker, Dinatolo understands the inherent challenges of being unable to use name talent. But he takes that as a positive, offering:

“I believe horror and thriller genres allow the filmmaker to express better and leave a creative mark. In major action and comedy, you heavily rely on the actors, especially name actors. But with horror you can get away with no famous, but great, up and coming cast. My cast includes talents like Jamie Bernadette, who has made herself a name in the horror genre, the multi-talented Janet Roth, the ex-hardcore star Charmane Star, and the two awesome leads Scott Baxter and Chad Bishop.”
A spooky, sexy songbird — FOE’s soundtrack sets an unsettling tone

With a Gravitas Ventures distribution deal, Dinatolo is happy to announce that Face of Evil (and its excellent soundtrack) is now available on VOD and DVD. So, what’s up next for him? He jokes: “Immediately, it’s to cure my own PTSD from this movie, haha! Then to make a sequel or prequel. Actually, that ‘evil face’ childhood image still stays with me, so I’m encouraging all my associates, friends and fans to spread the word. No, actually, spread the face, the artwork, tag it everywhere, copy and paste it online. The idea is to go viral with a simple, catchy symbol. My childhood nightmare, that FOE face, now as a source of entertainment.”

Check out “Face of Evil” on VOD at Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play, Xbox, Vimeo, YouTube; and on DVD at Amazon, and Target. And, you cannot miss the terrific soundtrack, now available on iTunes, Spotify, Napster etc, and all listed at this link