★★★ out of ★★★★★
A Lovecraftian flavored tale starring The Smoking Man and Max Headroom.
Written and directed by Rusty Nixon.
Has this ever happened to you? You’re having dinner at someone’s house. Let’s say your boss invited you over. Or, maybe you’re at your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents’ house to meet them for the first time over a home-cooked meal. Everything’s going great! At the end of the meal, the cook says something like, “Oh! And we have fresh catabrakka for dessert! You simply must have some!”
And you’re thinking, “Cata-what now?” but you’re trying to be polite so you say, “I’m not familiar with that, but sure! I’d love to try it.” While they happily serve it up in the kitchen, you subtly search it up on your phone. Wikipedia comes back with “an oily pudding made from fermented cactus sap and the epiglottis of the eastern ridgeback woodchuck” and you start thinking maybe asking for some was a mistake. Once it’s set down in front of you it really doesn’t look appetizing at all, but you’re committed. You try it and… huh. It actually isn’t that bad. I mean, once was enough and you can’t see yourself eating it again, but it turned out to be better than you thought.
TL;DR – That’s Residue. It doesn’t sound or look like it’ll be all that good, but once you get into it? It’s better than you’d think.
The concept behind Residue is a time-honored classic. A book containing forbidden knowledge so transformative that it warps the very fabric of reality. The Necronomicon, a witch’s book of spells, books full of things humankind “wasn’t meant to know,” but into which we can’t help diving head first. Damned curiosity! It’s this aspect of the story that makes the movie so engaging despite its numerous flaws.
Writer/director Rusty Nixon who, coincidentally, was a co-producer of Selfie From Hell (2018) must be a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft. Or maybe he’s just a librophobe. What do I know? Whatever the creative spark was, it brought into being a story about a book. An ageless journal that chronicles an ill-fated and long forgotten expedition. Oh, it also oozes a black, sticky slime and might kill you with a giant hook, if you’re not careful. New York Times best sellers list, here we come!
Wrestling promoter and low-level gangster, Mr. Fairweather [Matt Frewer; TV’s Orphan Black (2013-2017)], unwisely attempts to steal “The Book” from mysterious fellow and high-level gangster, Lamont [William B. Davis; TV’s The X-Files (1993-2018)], and both men lose control of it. It ends up in the hands of Luke Harding, P.I. [James Clayton; Candiland (2016)] who begins reading The Book just to see what all the fuss is about.
Much like Sutter Cane’s novels in John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian masterpiece In The Mouth of Madness (1994), The Book in Residue has the unnerving ability to alter time and reality. Luke begins to lose track of himself while reading the journal. He starts seeing and hearing strange things. Even his neighbors start acting strangely. Unfortunately, once you start reading, there are only two ways to get free: finish the book or perish.
The colors, special effects, and even the text used periodically to delineate different sections of the movie have a definite 80s feel. The font of the text in particular looks like it was ripped straight out of Netflix’s Stranger Things (2016-). It just happens to be green instead of red. For those of us from that era, there’s almost something comfortably nostalgic about it; bringing up memories of B-movies from that decade like From Beyond (1986).
Other parts of Residue don’t work so well. Apparently, if you have a private investigator as your main character, you have to set up your movie like a 1940s film-noir. It’s probably a union rule or something. Whatever the reason, it just falls flat in Residue. If you’re going to have “gritty” narration by your main character, that actor has got to have an interesting voice. James Clayton, unfortunately, does not (sorry, Mr. Clayton).
The acting, in general, wasn’t too bad. Clayton does a passable job as, Luke, the private eye; a bit too wooden for my taste, but decent enough. Taylor Hickson [Deadpool (2016), Incident in a Ghostland (2018)] did a much better job playing Luke’s daughter, Angelina. While Will Williams and Linda Darlow as Luke’s neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Oats, did much worse. Happily, everyone else fits easily into the “better” end of that spectrum so the overall sense of the performances is a positive one.
The special effects in Residue are actually not bad. It’s got decent practical effects for most things and The Book itself is a compelling prop. The make-up effects for the creepy demon people are less well done, but still. For the money they probably spent? Hey, way to go guys. If I had one actual complaint, it would be about the audio effects used to “demonize” the Big Fella’s voice. Poor guy needed subtitles his voice was so distorted. I half expected the rest of a death metal band to pop up so he’d have appropriate accompaniment for his Cookie Monster vocals.
As a whole, Residue has surprisingly good pacing. I felt like the wheels kinda came off a bit at the end — like we were building up a good head of steam when suddenly the accelerator broke and steering went out — but I suspect a good part of that was due to my own WWLD (What Would Lovecraft Do?) expectations. So, if you’re looking for a great, Lovecraft-y, research-makes-you-crazy movie about a mysterious book, go watch In The Mouth of Madness (1994).
If you’re still in the mood for more, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by Residue.
Residue is currently available for streaming on Netflix and Amazon.