‘The Brimstone Guild’ proves an ambitious film project

by Andrew Kingsley | 5/5/16 5:01pm

5.6.16-ARTS-film-courtesy-1
Claire Feuille ’18, Dominic Giugliano ’19 and Carina Conti ’16 star in the film.
Source: Courtesy of Alex Hurt

Like “Ringu” (1998) or “It Follows” (2014) à la Dartmouth, “The Brimstone Guild,” the latest film from Dartmouth TV, turns our quaint Hanover campus into a Gothic nightmare. Written, directed, edited, shot and co-produced by Alex Hurt ’16, the film brings Hurt’s unique cinematic vision to life in an ambitious 40-minute package.

The film begins 25 years in the past with a young woman putting a gun to her head, prepared to end it all. Before she can pull the trigger, a hooded figure storms her bathroom stall and murders her in cold blood. Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Brie, a Dartmouth student who fears she is being stalked by a supernatural force that haunts the suicidal and their friends to punish them for invoking Death. Aided by her friend Connors, she must discover which of her friends is suicidal and stop the curse.

Kudos to cinematographers Olivia Powell ’17, Nicole Chen ’19, Seth Welling and Hurt for their technically nuanced shooting, particularly in the bathroom and outlet sequences. Actors Claire Feuille ’18, Dominic Giugliano ’19 and Carina Conti ’16 also shine in the lead roles, bringing a difficult script to life. Bill Phillips, horror film screenwriter and film professor deserves a shout-out for getting down and dirty as a bloodied victim in the film’s closing moments.

Inevitably, the film is occasionally belied by its Dartmouth context — a bathroom murder is undermined by the all too familiar “Tear and Take” sticker on the paper towel dispenser. Horror films often take place in geographically displaced regions to enhance their alterity — for example Dracula originates from Transylvania. The familiarity of each location made it difficult to suspend disbelief and accept the film’s horrific bent. Moreover, the concatenated, arbitrary stock footage aimed at forming a sense of Gothic dread proved kitschy and unnecessary. That being said, the Dartmouth TV team strove valiantly to craft a compelling thriller.

The film actually works when distanced from all its fire and brimstone and viewed simply as a supernatural metaphor for the consequences of suicide on one’s community. The “demons” that haunt the suicidal psyche are transposed into their friends and family after the murder. The interchanging bodies in the final fight sequence speak to how suicide devastates everyone involved, leaving behind a wasteland of emotionally scarred bodies. At its core, “The Brimstone Guild” is a call to live, at the very least to avoid shape-shifting phantoms from attacking your friends.

“The Brimstone Guild” is playing tomorrow at 2 p.m. in the Loew Auditorium.