Being a horror fan, I often find myself in discussions with other horror fans about what movies we may have recently watched, and unfortunately more often than not we compare notes on what we disliked about those films. Watching a lot of independent horror films naturally leads to these kinds of conversations for horror fans who also happen to be cinephiles in general. There is a lot of content out there being manufactured constantly, and the majority of it is pretty bad. However, the quest for finding those few great unknown films is what keeps us going. Once in a while, we’ll find a film that stands out from the legions of samey indie films, and those discoveries make slogging through the bad stuff worthwhile. Writer/director Adam Ahlbrandt’s Cross Bearer is one of those films, a solid and stylish slasher update that stands above even some recent major studio horror films.
Heather (Natalie Jean) is a dancer working at a strip club, living with her ex Victoria (Victoria DePaul) and planning to get away with her new girlfriend Bunny (Kacie Marie). In order to add some quick cash to their escape fund, Heather takes on a drug delivery from her boss Harry (J.D. Brown) to pimp Anton (Shaun Paul Costello). Anton likes mixing business with pleasure, so Heather, Victoria, and Bunny are all sent to his huge, formerly abandoned warehouse building along with their coworker Cindy (Julia Campbell) and her filmmaker boyfriend Mark (Tim Cronin). The plan is simple: they get in, do the deal, give Anton a show, and get out. A complication to their plan arises in the form of Cross Bearer (Isaac Williams), a violent drifter who used to live in Anton’s building, and who has come back to start his campaign of cleansing the Earth of all sinners.
Cross Bearer doesn’t really do anything particularly new as far as slasher films go, except wallow in the more sordid aspects of its characters’ lives before the killing starts. Once the stage is set, what follows is mostly pretty obvious: Cross Bearer stalks everyone through the abandoned building and viciously knocks them off, mostly with a claw hammer. Where Cross Bearer really stands out from the pack of independent slasher films is in its great practical effects and its extremely professional look. The practical effects are often squirm-inducingly brutal and some of the most gruesomely realistic this side of Toetag Pictures. The filmmakers’ commitment to practical effects over CG blood spray (a dismaying and increasingly common feature of many low-budget horror films) is admirable.
However, even more than the effects, Cross Bearer sets itself apart with its visual style. Director Adam Ahlbrandt has a keen eye for interesting composition and color, and this alone makes Cross Bearer worth a look. The sharp digital video captures the grime of the film’s locations (which look genuinely unpleasant), while the color occasionally makes the film look like classic Mario Bava. All this is not to say that Cross Bearer is without problems: the cast is all over the place, the sound mix is sometimes a little off, and the Cross Bearer himself is a little too cartoonishly crazy in contrast to the rest of the film’s tone. However, the film’s effects and stylish direction more than make up for these shortcomings. Cross Bearer is one of the best independent horror films of the last couple of years, and it clearly marks Adam Ahlbrandt as a talent to watch.
For more information on Cross Bearer, visit the film’s official web site: http://crossbearermovie.com.