Who doesn’t like an awesome alien invasion movie? We don’t get many of them, but when we do, they usually involve F-16 fighter jets, massive explosions and hordes of flying saucers. But that’s not the case in “Exile” (formerly “The Sunderland Experiment”), a gruesome and thought provoking horror flick from Blatke Productions that was incredibly effective in all the best ways. I’m making a prediction: “Exile” will be very well received by fans of creepy, undeniably original and thought provoking science-fiction horror. This film was such a delightful surprise.
The story is anything but simple, and I’m almost hesitant to get too far into the actual plot. I honestly didn’t know much about this film when I saw it, and I feel like that only made it more enjoyable and shocking. I will say this quickly: the story revolves around young man named David (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow classmates in the small town of Sunderland. Also residing is the “Angel,” a ruthless and haunting creature who gives an ultimatum to every resident of Sunderland: worship and obey her to become blessed, or fall and become an outcast.
Sounds pretty far out, right?
Directors Sean Blau and Adam Petke assume that their audience is intelligent and open-minded and lets them experience the events in Sunderland just as the residents do. The world they created is nasty, scary and oddly believable, given the nature of cults and extreme religion in our societies nowadays. And maybe that’s what makes “Exile” so unique. This is without a doubt an alien vs. human style monster movie, however it never even gets close to touching the clichés that so often stick to that genre. And while there’s plenty of scares in “The Sunderland Experiment,” there’s also plenty of laughs and real human moments. Blau and Petke have made a thoughtful and dynamic film that also manages to push the boundaries of extreme horror.
And let’s talk about the horror. This movie is gory—super gory—and the Angel is seriously fucking creepy. Not only that, but from a technical perspective, this movie was seamless. There’s a wonderful blend of puppetry and special effects, enhanced by beautiful cinematography, a simple yet extremely detailed setting and sound design that is out of this world. When the Angel speaks, you can’t help but feel a crawling sensation up your spine, and I found myself to feel very invested in the characters while watching.
O’Brien steals the show as lead man David and gives an honest, endearing performance along side of the loveable and spunky Cassie (Katie Reed). It’s so nice to watch a horror movie where you actually root for the main characters, and these two lead a terrific ensemble. The townspeople of Sunderland were delightfully creepy, and kudos to voice actress Dennice Cisneros who is a powerful force throughout this film.
Looking at the small size of the cast and crew of this film, they’ve definitely accomplished something special. Rarely do you see small, indie horror films look, sound and feel this good. This film will undoubtably find its audience, and it really sticks with you. Keep your eyes peeled because you do not want to miss this.