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Art of the Dead Review

November 9, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Art of the Dead
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Art of the Dead Review  

Art of the Dead Review

Jessica Morris– Gina Wilson
Lukas Hassel– Dylan Wilson
Alex Rinehart– Kim Katlin
Zachary Chyz– Louis Wilson
Cynthia Aileen Strahan– Donna Wilson
Robert Donavan– Father Gregory Mendale
Danny Tesla– Dorian Wilde
Tara Reid– Tess Barryman
Richard Grieco– Douglas Winter

(check out the rest of the cast here)

Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Screenplay by Rolfe Kanefsky, based on a story by Michael Mahal and Sonny Mahal

Distributed by ITN Distribution

Not Rated
Runtime– 97 minutes

Buy it here


Art of the Dead, written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, is an awesome low budget horror flick about a happy family besieged by an ancient evil. Featuring a terrific ensemble cast including Tara Reid and Richard Grieco, Art of the Dead is scary, disturbing, and kind of funny in a weird way. It’s everything you want and more in a low budget horror movie.

Art of the Dead tells the story of the Wilsons, a wealthy Las Vegas family that, after husband, father, and successful businessman Dylan Wilson (Lukas Hassel) buys a series of creepy, old paintings created by artist Dorian Wilde (Danny Tesla) at an art auction and then hangs them in the Wilson family house, strange things begin to happen. Dylan locks himself in his office and tries to make obscene amounts of money at all costs. Dylan’s wife Gina (Jessica Morris) becomes shockingly uninhibited. Somewhat happy go lucky daughter Donna (Cynthia Ailee Strahan) becomes super jealous of a class rival. Son Louis (Zachary Chyz) becomes a sociopath, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Kim (Alex Rinehart). And the Wilson’s youngest kids get sucked into some sort of bizarre fantasy world that’s hooked into the shit they’re watching on television. How the hell could the presence of old paintings be responsible for all of this?

Well, the paintings, which depict the Seven Deadly Sins, have a notorious history, something that art dealer Tess Barryman (Tara Reid) failed to disclose when she put them up for auction. A previous owner, Douglas Winter (Richard Grieco), did seriously reprehensible things when he owned them (we see what he did at the very beginning of the movie). Father Gregory Mendale (Robert Donavan), who “did battle” with the paintings, tries to warn potential new owners of what could happen if they procure them, but what he’s proclaiming seems so ridiculous. Sure, former owners did horrible things after they got the paintings, but that could all just be a big coincidence. Who the hell ever heard of “evil” paintings in the real world?

Director Kanefsky does a terrific job keeping the story moving and giving all of the family members time to shine. Each story is equal parts disturbing, bizarre, and hilarious, and it’s fun to see what, exactly, the family members do when they become, for the lack of a better word, “possessed” by the paintings. I don’t want to delve into what happens in terms of specific details as there are plenty of nifty surprises to experience among the family members’ stories and you should get to experience them cold going in. I will say, though, that the Wilson children’s story is easily the most disturbing, because you really don’t understand what’s happening to them until late in the movie. The Dylan Wilson story is funny, but the one that made me laugh out loud was Donna Wilson’s story. I didn’t expect it to play out the way it does. Is it sick? Absolutely. But it’s also so off the wall that you won’t hesitate to burst out laughing.

At first, I wasn’t too impressed with the movie’s villain, Dorian Wilde (Danny Tesla), the painter, as I thought it was better if the paintings were the villains themselves. And I didn’t think the movie really needed a weirdo from another time period taking up screen time. But Tesla’s performance grows on you as the movie progresses and Wilde’s presence starts to make sense. Wilde isn’t what you think he is.

The movie’s special effects are nothing short of phenomenal. From various gross as hell gore effects to terrific looking monsters, Art of the Dead is filled with eye candy for horror movie fans. You will likely be amazed at what director Kanefsky and make up effects maestro Vincent J. Guastini managed to pull off on such a limited budget. There are $100 million movies in movie theatres right now that don’t look half as good as Art of the Dead.

The ensemble cast is damn near perfect. Lukas Hassel and Jessica Morris do a great job as Dylan and Gina Wilson, husband and wife. They clearly love one another before they get the paintings, and when the paintings start to work them over you don’t realize that that’s what’s happening. It just seems like Gina is in the mood big time. But that’s just the beginning of their predicament. When they split away and sort of focus on their own issues, it’s kind of sad. You desperately want to see them get back together, or at least fend off the curse long enough to experience their former life again for a few moments before the nastiness comes back. I think you’ll dig the way their stories play out.

Zachary Chyz, as Louis Wilson, has quite the relationship with his girlfriend Kim (Alex Rinehart). They love one another, they’re going to get married one day, and yet everything goes to hell while spending time visiting the Wilson family compound. When Louis disappears and starts cruising the streets looking for a woman, you sort of know what he’s likely up to, but you’re not really prepared for it. You want Kim to figure out what’s going on so she can save Louis, even if he may not deserve it (when you become a sociopath you also become an asshole, and who has time to deal with that?).

Cynthia Aileen Strahan, who plays Donna, has the funniest story in the movie. You actually think it’s going to be the most disturbing because Donna starts acting out in big ways, which is not who she is normally. You know it isn’t going to end well. But then Donna does the unthinkable, and, as I said earlier, you’ll burst out laughing. It’s just so damn weird.

Robert Donavan’s Father Gregory Mendale is one of the movie’s big heroes. I actually thought Mendale would be in the movie for like two scenes and then be killed off (he just knows too much about what’s really going on) but he hangs around until the end and kicks major ass. I think it’s obvious, at least to me, who should be the main character in an Art of the Dead 2. He’s got the look, the demeanor, and he has that one fucked up eye.

Tara Reid does a good job as the art dealer Tess Barryman. You would think that Tess would be a little less flippant when it comes to selling the paintings, but then you’re never quite sure about who she is anyway. Is she evil or is she just clueless?

As for Richard Grieco, man, his opening scene could be its own short movie. The opening has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and is way more fun that you expect it to be. And Grieco looks like he’s having a ball going completely apeshit. That enthusiasm makes you want to keep watching.

And that’s what you need to do. You need to watch Art of the Dead. If you’re a horror movie nerd, you will dig all of its 97 minutes. It’s gory, it’s disturbing, and it’s funny. It’s the low budget horror movie total package. And when you’re done watching it, you will be hankering for a Art of the Dead 2. Let’s make it happen.

See Art of the Dead. See it, see it, goddamn see it.


So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: Around 10.


Nudity?: Yes, and it is glorious.

Doobage: A car driving, a lion, young people having sex, knife to the neck, death by pencil, double barrel shotgun hooey, exposed intestines, a very cool opening titles sequence, an art auction, a goofy nun, eye stabbing, attempted closet sex, beer stealing, serious water drinking from a hose, exploding gut, of screen aggressive sex, a very persuasive snake, attempted serious drinking, a critical beat down, paintbrush to the side of the neck, face painting with blood, attempted assault, off screen loud sex, a prolonged attack on the environment, off screen shopping spree, weird flirting, bra talk, silky bra fondling, fly eating, a gross as fuck snail documentary on TV, frog kissing, a bikini pool party, forced boob fondling, rock to the back of the head, multiple hot prostitutes, attempted lesbian/demon rape, some truly fabulous boobs, body painting, a head-butt, off screen bloody boob removal, full frontal nudity, mirror used as a weapon, a disturbing fantasy world, very gross teeth, attempted painting burning, axe to the back of the head, face scratching, decapitation, horn through the chest, giant snails, a giant pig man, snakes, and a terrific ending.

Kim Richards?: It depends on how you want to look at it.

Gratuitous: An automatic trunk close button, Richard Grieco, “with Tara Reid,” “with Richard Grieco,” Tara Reid, environmentalism, hallucinations about that bitch Tiffany, multiple off screen happenings, a flashback, Isiah 2019, bullshit about the occult and whatnot, full frontal nudity, a creepy fantasy world, and a terrific ending.

Best lines: “No respect for art! None whatsoever!,” “Ladies and gentlemen, behold the animals,” “That’s quite a purchase you made there, Mr. Wilson. Are you an art collector?,” “I used to be a priest. Get your hands off me!,” “Lifestyles of the rick and obnoxious, no thank you,” “I told you it was like a zoo working in this place,” “Okay, coolest parents ever!,” “Dylan, come up to the bedroom, please!,” “Look, Father. I’m not a father anymore,” “This painting does nothing for me emotionally,” “Jesus Christ, what the hell is up with this family?,” “What are you doing? You, Bobby Stanford, you! Right now!,” “Slut much?,” “Browsing or buying?,” “Look, if I’m fucking or posing it costs the same, three hundred an hour,” “Now, that body will be mine,” “When you said ‘paint me’ I didn’t know you actually meant paint me,” “You will be a real work of art when I’m done,” “How many families do you have to destroy before you’re satisfied?,” “Don’t I look pretty?,” “Damn you back to Hell! We’ll go together!,” and “No! You can’t destroy my life’s work!”

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Art of the Dead, written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, is a terrific low budget horror flick about a loving family that’s besieged by a series of evil paintings. Featuring a top notch ensemble cast, excellent special effects, it’s a movie that horror movie nerds will love. Check it out on DVD and on various Video on Demand outlets including Amazon, Comcast Xfinity InDemand, Charter, Cox, and others. It is definitely worth your money and time. And you will be hankering for an Art of the Dead 2 when it’s over. That’s what happened to me. An absolute must see.