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Detectives Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) and Eli Smith (Andonis Anthony) are attending a crime scene on their patch of greater London. It’s grisly. A man lies supine, mostly rotted away having been left in a damp rat-infested cellar, and surrounded by ritualistic, perhaps even Satanic markings on the floor and wall. It’s not the first such scene Faraway and Smith have witnessed this week, either; they’ve a serial killer on their hands.
Their investigations lead them to the smoothly confident Michael Sweet (Jamie Satterthwaite), a partner at the property development firm who own the site at which the rotted corpse was found. In fact as the bodies mount up, their investigations lead them back to Michael Sweet over and again. He seems unperturbed, though. What he DOES seem, however, is remarkably interested in Faraway. Who is he? What’s he up to? Why his interest in Rebecca?
In addition to the case, Faraway has problems of her own. She is struggling with the sale of her house. a move forced upon her by a messy divorce which also has her on prescription medication. She is also met ceaselessly and by more-or-less everyone – including her own detective partner – with a distressing amount of misogyny. “I really need to get one of those,” leers Smith to a uniformed sergeant with reference to a nearby WPC. “I thought you already had one,” replies the sergeant, looking at Faraway. As the case progresses, Faraway’s grip on reality begins to loosen, and then crumble altogether. Fatigue brought upon by the many stresses each day brings? It would be perfectly understandable were that the case. But is there something else happening here?
Charismata, co-written/directed by Tor Mian (The Milky Way) and Andy Collier (for whom Charismata represents a full-length debut in the director’s chair), is a gleefully creepy piece of grand guignol, evoking the style of David Fincher’s Se7en with the dread of a Clive Barker tale.
Sarah Beck Mather imbues the role of Rebecca Faraway with a hard-nosed shell disguising an increasingly justifiable panic which becomes evermore evident as events begin to engulf her. Detective Smith is something of a bigoted dickhead and yet Andonis Anthony succeeds from the off in keeping him relatable and even likeable, a necessary quality as Charismata moves into its final third. The movie is sprinkled sparingly with black humour – having been ribbed by Smith for vomiting at a previous crime scene, a deeply irritated Faraway proceeds to vomit at the crime scene – and, in that spirit, Johnny Vivash provides some welcome respite from the gloom and noir as a put-upon manager whose security firm appears to have been foiled by the serial killer at every turn. For the most part though, directors Mian and Collier ratchet up both the tension and the grue quickly and relentlessly throughout a crisply shot and framed picture. Charismata keeps on smacking away at you, literally up to the final frame.
Now, it’s not perfect. In places, the dialogue feels clunky. “You’re in for a treat.” “Bloody?” “Like a menstruating virgin at a gang-bang.” Also, in one or two areas (not many, but enough), the visual effects are hamstrung somewhat by budgetary limitations. But these are minor distractions really which shouldn’t detract from what is, overall, a wonderfully atmospheric and gruesome horror/thriller. Recommended.