“From the beginning, men used god to justify the unjustifiable.” – Salman Rushdie
Religious fanaticism; those two words send a shiver down my spine like no horror movie ever can. History is chock-full of evils done in the name of religion and the world is still full of those evils to this very day. With Upsidedown Cross, writer/director William Hellfire and writer Mike Hunchback take that unfortunate truth and hammer it home.
Nadine is living on a soiled mattress in a makeshift photo studio with her boyfriend who is basically a pimp. He’s more than happy to shoot her up with heroin so that she can make them some money by posing nude for guys who want to take her picture and sometimes do a little bit more with her. While working, a small raid happens at the “studio” and Nadine’s boyfriend and another girl are arrested. Luckily for Nadine, she was busy giving one of the cops a hand-job so he let her go.
After the “break” she receives from the ultra-disgusting cop (Rick Savage), Nadine has to retreat to the home of her mother whom it’s clear that she hasn’t seen in a while. The reunion doesn’t seem like the normal mom/daughter reunion and the dialogue tells us that the relationship has not always been great. Nadine’s mom Delilah (Colleen Cohan) is willing to let her stay but we see that she is a bit of a religious nut as she begins telling Nadine that she needs to let Jesus into her soul.
While Nadine (Erin Russ) is trying to get back to normal and sort of withdraw from the damage that she’s done to her body, her mom keeps digging into her about Jesus and such. One night Delilah goes too far in her pestering and Nadine decides to have some fun with her and pretends she is possessed. Unfortunately, no one let Delilah in on the joke and she hauled off and knocked Nadine across the face with an ashtray.
Thinking that her daughter is truly possessed by demons, Delilah sees a commercial on TV for an exorcist and she calls up to place her order. Nadine seems more amused than anything when the preacher (David Yow) shows up and she decides to play along with the exorcism just to get it over with. However, when she finds out that her mom basically gave away her life savings for these “services”, she demands the money back from the exorcist and says that it was all a fraud. The preacher is able to convince Delilah that Nadine is still possessed and assures her that, with the help of some rope and other implements, he can rid Nadine of her demons once and for all.
Believe it or not, things get much worse from there.
Armed with a strong script and a good idea, Hellfire and Hunchback were immediately off to a good start with Upsidedown Cross. When the cameras started rolling, things got even better. We’re treated to a fantastic performance by Erin Russ as Nadine who plays a sort of unsavory character; but plays it with such a clever snarkiness that she forces you to not only sympathize with Nadine but to actually like her. While Rick Savage’s role as an undercover cop is small, he is so ridiculously brilliant at playing the role of a scumbag that it’s hard to believe that he’s actually a nice guy (he is). Colleen Cohan does a great job as Nadine’s mom and also manages to be a sympathetic character. The show stopper is David Yow (from The Jesus Lizard) as the preacher. He somehow manages to seamlessly weave his character in and out of being at times pathetic to sad to disturbing to downright scary; and he does it with such a casual grace that it’s hard to believe that he is even acting.
When I speak to folks who think that films like Insidious are the best that my beloved horror genre has to offer, I have a discussion with them about all of the good indie films that are out there that are much better than what most mainstream films have to offer. So, thank you to everyone involved in Upsidedown Cross for giving me more ammo for that argument.
Stay gory my friends.