Frightfest: Thorns (2023)

Director: Douglas Schulze

Running Time: 83 Minutes

Starring: Jon Bennett, Cassandra Schomer, Bo Shumaker, Doug Bradley

NASA employee and ex-priest Gabriel (Jon Bennett) drives to the remote Iron Mountain observatory, investigating why the observatory went silent after receiving a radio signal from deep space. He discovers the place in disarray upon arriving, with red lights ominously lighting the rooms, bible pages plastered on the walls, and seemingly nobody around. After discovering the mute Sister Agnes (Cassandra Schomer) locked in the basement, the pair find that the signal has opened a portal unleashing a thorned monster, and attempting to spread hell on Earth.

Writer/Director Douglas Schulze tries blending the scientific and the religious for a feature intent on resembling the gruesome offspring of Hellraiser and Event Horizon, yet that is hampered by the work being too dull to match either film. Perfunctory performances are put into the characters, with Doug Jones appearing via video call to provide exposition while literally phoning in his performance.

While it tries building atmosphere within the deserted observatory, this is unfortunately hampered by falling back on half-hearted jump scares. It is worth pointing out that the gore is effective, although some instances are hampered by shaky camerawork. The most unfortunate moment is a toilet-bowl fight, as this should deliver the wacky entertainment one hopes for from such a description, yet it sadly feels too passive.

It is always worth commending the perseverance of filmmakers to deliver large ideas within a small-budget, although it is distracting how the proceedings feel confined by the minimal settings. It is especially noticeable how the monster resembles a knock-off cenobite, although this may be deliberate considering Bradley's casting. By the time credits roll, the most hellish thing about this film is how apocalyptically boring it is.

Thorns made its World Premiere at Frightfest 2023