Global View Productions
Written and Directed by Thor Moreno
Produced by Annette Duffy/Chris McAninch/Shawn McAninch
I’ve been following the career of Thor Moreno for a couple of years now with a great deal of enjoyment and entertainment. He’s a director who is not interested in trying to impress with bizarre and ultimately meaningless camera tricks to distract the viewer. He wants to tell a story and he wants to communicate that story as best he can with zero confusion. And as a writer he understands that there’s no reason for the actors to tell the audience what it is that they’re looking at on the screen. So instead he uses it to clarify and illuminate character and communicate information that we can’t see.
This works very well in KULTUS which is a mystery wrapped in an enigma and it’s one that I particularly enjoyed because I’ve been desperately missing the kind of mystery film where the investigator has to solve the crime using brainpower, life experience and a keen understanding of the human psyche instead of with computers and DNA. The pair of investigators we follow in KULTUS do indeed both have more than their share of brains, understanding and experience and it’s just as interesting seeing how they work together as it is to watch them solve the mystery.
The mystery begins with the disappearance of Beverly, a writer (Annette Duffy) who is trying to get out from under the cloud of alcoholism. She picks up on the story of a family found murdered in a house located on a North Pacific Indian reservation. The family’s mother is missing and she’s presumed to have either committed the crime herself or was carried off by whoever did it. Beverly thinks there’s more to it than that and moves into their house to try and discover what happened to them. Pretty soon she’s so far into the mystery that she suspects the solution may be more terrifying than the mystery itself.
Beverly herself goes missing and FBI agent Curtis (Jason Rainwater) is teamed up with civilian consultant Agatha (Kim Grimaldi) a woman of multiple protean talents and fearsome intelligence to find out what happened to Beverly and by extension, the family as well. It’s a case that will prove both baffling and frightening as well as highly personal for Agatha.
There’s an awful lot I liked about KULTUS. The location shooting in Eureka, California is quite beautiful and contrasts very well with the darkness of the story. Annette Duffy and Kim Grimaldi both walk away sharing the acting honors for this one. Annette Duffy has a wonderfully expressive face and eyes that work together to convey a variety of emotions, all at the same time that easily gets across on the screen that Beverly’s screws are coming loose the longer she stays in the house. For a while we don’t know if there’s something really going on in the house or if Beverly just wants to get back to gettin’ her drink on. Miss Duffy is a tremendously appealing actress who provided me with something that doesn’t happen to me often when I’m watching a movie of this genre: she made me jump out of my seat twice. The second time is in a blood-freezing moment that I’m positive is Thor’s homage to a similar scene in “The Exorcist III”
By the time the movie was over I wanted to watch another one with Kim Grimaldi’s Agatha solving another mystery. We’ve seen this kind of character before: the hyper-intelligent social outsider who has a short-circuited emotional switchboard. But I don’t recall ever seeing this kind of character played by a woman. And thanks to Kim Grimaldi’s talent, we never look at Agatha as just being a man with breasts. She never lets us forget that Agatha is quite a woman indeed. Especially in two interrogation scenes. In one, Agatha demonstrates a great deal of empathy towards a child and in the other, just watch her facial expressions as a woman describes to Agatha and Curtis how her son killed her husband. I dunno know if Miss Grimaldi intended it to be funny but I sure as hell laughed.
Don’t let me give you the impression that the rest of the cast slouch on their jobs. One of the best things about a Thor Moreno movie is his casting. His people in his movies look like…well, like people. The men aren’t impossibly handsome or the women supernaturally beautiful. They look like people you could conceivably see walking on the streets where you live. His actors have faces that have experience and been lived in. It gives an added weight to the movie and draws me deeper into the story I’m watching because these people look real, know what I mean? And they play it real. There’s a lot of good actors in this movie who deserve to be better known.
KULTUS isn’t out in theaters yet but it’ll be in limited release in June. I’ll keep you posted as to exactly when and where but in the meantime, look for Thor Moreno’s other movies. They’re available on DVD or online at: https://www.indiereign.com/