Taking a quick glance at the collection of directors on Andrew Repasky McElhinney’s list of influences, it’s obvious that this is a filmmaker with grandiose aspirations for cinematic glory. His second feature, “Chronicle of Corpses,” is an enormously ambitious cinematic venture with a style described as one that conflates the quiet Victorian elegance of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” with the exquisite allure of contemporary slasher horror.

If this seems a bizarre pairing, perhaps it’s worth noting this all comes from a 24-year-old fledgling director whose top ten favorite movies include Ingmar Bergman’s “The Silence,” Jean Luc Godard’s “Pierrot le Fou,” as well as “Friday the 13th,” episodes I-IX.

Filmed just outside of Philadelphia, the film chronicles the demise of the Elliots, a formerly affluent lineage of 19th-century aristocrats whose dark secretive past has returned to pick them off one by one.

The ailing family is given an initial foreboding indication of their collective fate in the opening shots of the film in which an unassuming maid-servant’s bowel movement is abruptly curtailed by a violent slashing.

Despite the warnings, the household is helpless to do anything about what’s in store for them as the rest of the family members also begin disappearing in the night.

Though the household pitifully attempts to find salvation and redemption through the consolation of a stoic priest, the carnage nevertheless continues as parent and offspring alike are methodically smote by a mysterious knife-wielding anathema.

Meanwhile, our eyes are opened to the nauseatingly lascivious relationship between Mr. Elliot and his corpulent brother-in-law, as well as to the past infidelities of Grandma Elliot. However, rest assured, in the end, all transgressions are avenged and all will have met their demise in one way or another.

Despite laying claim to the most enticingly lurid title since “Leprechaun 4: In Space,” “Chronicle of Corpses” teems with an ambience that runs more along the lines of a Jane Austen novel choked to death by the hands of a raging nihilist.

Tenuous romantic bonds are swiftly and mercilessly snuffed out while melancholic characters deliver poetic soliloquies with an emotional detachment so distant it almost borders on a peculiar sort of deadpan humor.

Actually, it could be argued whether or not the family members’ personalities are any more cadaverous in death than they are in life. However, the style works well in conjunction with the elegant poeticism of the script to effectively transform the tale into a curiously wry 90-minute eulogy before concluding with a startling final scene that presents an interesting commentary on the true nature of God’s “divine mercy.”

“Chronicle of Corpses” is also a brilliant reminder that a lack of financial resources is no reason to shy away from greatness. Working with a paltry budget, the results of McElhinney’s inspiring efforts are nothing less than phenomenal.

Through meticulous shot compositions and a deft mastery of the intricate symbiosis between light and shadow, McElhinney lays the groundwork for what’s sure to be a prosperous filmmaking career.

Long static shots engulf characters in rich looming Gothic interiors, pensive victims leer out from amidst dark cavernous shadows, while terror builds and strikes from beneath ominous shrouds of secrecy.

Never has so much been done with so little since I managed to fend off my grandfather’s drunken assault with only my fists and a tattered koosh ball.

Visiting artist Andrew Repasky McElhinney will be in attendance at the George Eastman House on Friday Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. to present and answer questions regarding his film “Chronicle of Corpses.”

Berg can be reached at wberg@campustimes.org.



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