Latvian horror film The Man In the Orange Jacket takes home invasion to a new level. Well, maybe not new, but different that’s for sure. It’s not as gruesome as the French slasher Inside. This isn’t even as disturbing as Funny Games. But this, another feature film just a hair over an hour playing at Fantastic Fest, starts with a bang and certainly doesn’t waste any time getting to the killing.
The film is about a construction worker who kills the CEO and his wife in their Italian vacation home following a company-wide layoff. But once the so-called revenge has been extracted, things get quiet…a little too quiet. It’s then that Aik Karapetian turns down the heat to near bone-chilling levels. Truth be told, after the shocking intro there’s not a lot that happens in the middle of this mostly speechless 70 minute feature. The film is more of a surreal exercise in suspense than it is a straight-up horror flick.
Told in four chapters, all part of an apparent dream sequence, this slow descent into madness is layered well and builds even if nothing ever really happens. The killer is so taken by the lifestyle of his victims that he dresses in their clothes, drives their car, and even eats at their local restaurant. He seems to, uncomfortably and uneasily, have assumed the lavish woody estate, and taken comfort that its secluded location has helped him commit the perfect murder. He’s only person who knows they’re dead but soon his conscience (if that’s what explains the creepy visions he has) starts to eat at him.
This is the feature-length debut from Latvian director Aik Karapetian. With echoes of The Shining, and other slow-paced glimpses into someone coming apart from the inside, it offers a unique horror story focusing on themes of revenge, class struggle, guilt, and paranoia. It’s impressive how a house, with no one in it, can raise pulses when the tiniest sounds begins to echo through the endless hallways and countless rooms. This film is not horrific in a visual sense, but the stress is puts on the mind can be just as jarring as any jump scare. A creepy, location-based thriller gets the blood pumping, but it’s the spectral figures and nonsensical ending may leave many wanting something more fulfilling and less heady.
It has more in common (as far as pace and mood goes) with Ti West’s The House of the Devil or possibly even Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising than it does something like You’re Next. Yet it also has both the hair pulling tedium and the payoff of West and Refn’s respective titles. Again, not very much happens, but as isolation poisons The Man In the Orange Jacket to the point he becomes delusional, there’s this overbearing suspense that when this tension (or tedium) breaks, it’s like someone has opened the floodgates.
Karapetian’s film is an interesting exercise, but because of the unique narrative structure and the prolonged moments of mood, mood and more mood, it becomes a bit of a bore. Because it is so ambiguous, one might do better to not read the synopsis and go in blind. That might make it more fun, or taxing, trying to figure out what the film is really about knowing nothing about it. The film comes off uneven, and half-baked which is disappointing. But hey, it’s ambitious for Karapetian’s first film, so there should be points awarded for trying something different. That said, is it too much to want a more satisfying resolution?