Review: Angel City Horror

Written and directed by Matt McWilliams, Los Angeles, 1951 with the help of his partner Glenn O’Brian, veteran Detective George Hard stumbles on to evidence that leads him to investigate the disappearance of a mental patient at LA’s most notorious insane asylum. After interrogating the head nurse for answer Hard and O’Brian soon discover something evil lurking inside the asylum. Starring: Christopher Matthew Cook, Patrick Joseph Rieger, Sarah Nicklin, Sadie Katz and Caleb Harris.

Combining 1950s Los Angeles with noir, graphic novel and horror is undoubtedly a combination bursting with colour and style. It makes a strong impression immediately, there’s a vibrant energy but also a classic detective feel. Mixing between live action and the combination of graphic novel and animation is a captivating mixture, which is easy to be drawn in by. It nicely feels like each element influences the others, particularly the comic strip style feeding into the framing of the shots. There’s a great variety to the direction, creating both a convincing noir detective drama matched with a playful, almost slasher edge.

As Angel City Horror moves forward, it leans further towards the latter which has its advantages and disadvantages. Primarily it’s a great influence on the energy, introducing a touch of violence and dark possibilities, especially within an asylum setting. However, as it approaches its final moments, it skews into something more silly, a classically B-movie style and unfortunately it doesn’t quite match the tone and style set so far. It’s an interesting conflict, as it speaks to how well Matt McWilliams set up the first half of the film, creating genuine noir, and an entertaining story, which makes the change rocky. Both of the style choices work but it feels as though it needed to stick with one to do itself justice, either go in right from the start in a more overtly 50s style horror, or stick with the more slick, modern hybrid. Considering it from the story point of view, it does work and it’s an effective way to round things out, as a whole it does a lot with the nine minutes it’s working with.

It also brings through some archetypal characters which are satisfying to watch, the typical brutish detectives, disillusioned by a crime filled Los Angeles. They have that quintessential dialogue of speaking in statements, a way which no-one has ever spoken in natural conversation but is abundantly found in classic cinema. The detectives portrayed by Christopher Matthew Cook and Patrick Joseph Rieger, as well as giving entertaining performances, also smoothly fit into the era aesthetic. Nicklin, Katz and Harris round out the rest of the cast nicely, with extremely different personalities. Nicklin brings a confident, sly and sarcastic receptionist, while Katz adds the tone of fear to the film and Harris brings a touch of the unhinged and sinister.

Angel City Horror perfectly blends a graphic novel style with classic LA noir, they’re a match made in heaven and make for an entertaining, energetic and vibrant nine minutes. The direction is strong and the mix of animation and live-action is satisfying to watch. Its only downfall is ending on a much sillier note than it prepared itself for, suddenly making that jump into B-movie territory clashes a little too much with the existing tone. However, the story works well, it’s fun to watch and has an impressive style.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Showing at FirstGlance Film Festival on 13 May

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