Let’s face it, making a movie is not an easy thing to do. There are so many working parts and so many people involved, it is much easier to have things fall apart than succeed. Maybe this is why J. Van Auken decided to take things into his own hands and make a movie that was in line with his ideas and vision. Whatever the case may be, Relevator turned out to be a pleasant surprise and while not for everyone, had enough good moments to keep me attentive right to the end.
The film is all about John Dunning (Van Auken), who is a psychic detective with a very battered and beaten reputation. He stumbles onto a strange and dangerous family, their incredible wealth, a mysterious island and the strange death of a troubled man who happens to be the last heir to the family fortune.
Along for the ride is Valerie Kreuger (Mindy Rae), a skeptical journalist with her own agenda who ends up being an important part of John’s journey. She is definitely not easy to figure out, which is part of her charm, and this continues right up until the end of the film. While the character sometimes drags the momentum of Revelator down at times, she fits well in the way the film looks and feels. Van Auken, who also wrote, produced and directed the film, plays the title role of John Dunning in a morose, low key kind of way that goes hand in hand with the tone of the movie. He is a hard character to warm up to but it is done in such a way that it makes his tortured soul that much more interesting.
To call Revelator a simple ghost story would be a disservice to what Auken has tried to do here. The overall tone and mood of the film are solid, as well as the look, which is filled with grey and black shades that ooze into everything from story to characters. However, it doesn’t always work. The high concept and morose feel can be downright depressing and isn’t for everyone, which comes across even more so during certain characters long winded dialogue. The score of the film was also a bit underwhelming, which maybe was done on purpose, but in the end wasn’t the great companion it could have been for a film like this.
I don’t know what would inspire anyone to want to do all the work Van Auken did to get this movie made. Juggling all those responsibilities must have been incredibly difficult but in the end, he managed to pull it off. I would love to ask him if looking back on it now, would he have been better off getting some help in some capacity or was this one of those labor of love kind of deals that required him to be as hands on as he was.
When all is said and done, Revelator ends up giving off a great feeling of dread and suspense, helped by the fact that some of the ghosts are quite realistic and creepy. Auken did some solid work here and managed to elevate the movie above some of the usual fare that is spewed out in this genre. That in itself is a huge victory.
Three and a half stars out of five
- Solid look and feel, especially important for this type of film
- Great job by J. Van Auken, especially when he took on so many responsibilities
- Tone is great but becomes a bit depressing and monotonous at times
- Dialogue needed to be broken up a bit more as it tended to drag on at times