Combining “documentary” filmmaking in the style of Blair Witch with 80s schlocky horror tricks and tropes, Dwellers quickly skims over the awkward, and kind of archaic, homelessness issues and get into the bones of the horror story we all really want to see. This works out in everyone’s favor – homelessness is wrapped up in an out of touch, ableist narrative that basically only highlights mental health issues that would lead to homelessness – opting for schizophrenic interviews over simple, honest reality. Turning this kind of point of view into a horror story is no brainer – if the “crazy” homeless population claims to see a creature that is taking away street dwellers, of course there’s nothing to that fairy tale… or is there?
When a documentary film crew sets out to make a film about the local homeless population, they uncover an underground mystery and find themselves knee deep in a tale of horror and mutilation. Drew (Drew Fortier) and his team start out trying to quickly make good on a contract they’ve balked on, but they end up in a horror film of their own.
The overwhelming tributes to C.H.U.D. are a crucial part of the success of Dwellers – without the fun, funny thrills along the way, the narrative and the performances fall more than a bit flat. As happens only too often in modern horror films, I am in it for the monsters – and like many greats before it, Dwellers shows off just enough monster to be interesting but not enough to lose your interest. It’s a tricky balance, but Dwellers pulls it off with panache.
In an interesting and surprising twist, while the entire creative team has a background in music, the film itself contains not a single note of music. This allows tension to build without assistance — something rare in modern film. I have, many times, railed against the anticipatory, telegraphing nature of modern movie scores – which I feel don’t allow us to experience film organically. Dwellers takes an entirely different, and refreshing, tack.
Dwellers is a fun little romp through schlock nostalgia – definitely a B movie, but who doesn’t love B horror? While I doubt this cast will be pulling Academy Awards for these performances, there’s a charm and “realness” to every one of them that you can’t help but fall for. Another simple concept, made simply, for the books.
5 out of 10