“Sometimes I want to smash your face into a best writing paper window”
The horror genre has been used to speak on political matters, mask psychological traumas, signify an internal struggle through manifested pain, and to just plain scare audiences with a health
y portion of blood and guts. Frank Battiston‘s Fractured Minds wants to feed into the more than meets the eye mentality, but I’m not sure if the multi-narrative finds the sure-footing to do more than portray the usual backwoods cretins and a quartet of city folk unknowingly walking into their lair. Interviews speak on its monster representing the differing level of martial strife affecting each couple, but to me it’s just a nightmarish intermingling of fear-induced identities being hunted for their flesh.
And this isn’t a bad thing. No one says a horror flick needs some grand underlying purpose beyond throwing blood around and inducing the shrieks of its female cast. In this regard Fractured Minds is a success. The acting leaves something to be desired—but credit the filmmakers for attempting the male leads themselves—and consistency falters between cuts when sound gets tinny and visuals grainy at points, but the gore factor is right out of the more recent spate of graphic remakes like The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Serrated knives, gooey organs, and a pretty great aesthetic for the monster wreaking havoc keep the production value looking higher than the budget probably allowed.
Written by Kevin A. Walton—who also plays the monster—from a story by Battiston and lead actor Rene Fornari, it’s the first flash of possible schizophrenic break that drew me in. While we meet Fornari’s Rick and Amy Brower‘s Nicole arguing about their disintegrating marriage and her accusation of adultery, there is an intriguing mirror of a younger couple across the gas pump in almost identical positioning. Erick (Battiston) is leaning against the door of his SUV with map covering his impatience and Karen (Vironica Dawson) sits in the passenger seat in a huff. Rick and Erick peer at each other in a quiet understanding, and then the latter disappears as the former closes out his purchase.
It’s the kind of scene that sets up the possibility for a psychological break on behalf of Rick—a fracture easily making him become whatever killer they’ll find after crashing their car to avoid a grisly man running into the road. Instead, though, we watch as this sparring couple awakens inside a dark room of a rundown cabin to the screams of another couple being disemboweled on the other side of the wall. Nicole crawls towards a hole in the wood to watch as guts are cut out of a victim and the quick paced tension mounts as she and Rick try to find escape. More people die before an opportunity presents itself for a last selfless attempt at proving a love thought extinguished.
Rather than end there, however, we’re treated with a twist of consciousness as the point of view transfers to show Erick and Karen in much the same position that led our last couple into their hellish descent. Details are different this time around and only the lingering fear of the films’ first half remains to give Karen pause at receiving help from a man distinctly reminiscent to the grotesque creature from her dream. Perhaps the woods represent marriage and the monster an impending divorce to run from or accept, but I’m not sure it needs to in the scope of a short film that’s enjoyable from its reality bending anyway.
Maybe Rick’s last-ditch effort to save their lives bought them a second chance through Erick and Karen’s form, but why overanalyze? Just sit back and watch the effective gore and oddly jarring plot forks while forgiving the amateurish performances. It’s enough.
Fractured Minds 6/10 | ★ ★ ½