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Review: AM1200 (2008)

AM1200 is a 40 minute short that packs more sheer creepiness into its limited runtime than most features. It’s also one of the few films to successfully channel the works of H.P. Lovecraft, despite not being based directly on one of his stories. The film has a palpable air of dread and menace, even without showing anything, for most of its running time.

Sam, (Eric Lange WIND RIVER, FEAR, INC.) and Harry, (Ray Wise, TONE-DEAF, ROBOCOP), run a scam on the investment company they work for. They get the money, but something goes badly wrong, resulting in Harry putting a bullet in his own head. Sam flees town, so nervous that a police car following behind him leaves him puking at the side of the road. And things get worse from there. Turning on the radio to help stay awake, hears what sounds like a distress call from AM 1200, a religious station. Against his better judgment, he investigates. He finds a man cuffed to a rail and babbling incoherently about “the transmissions”. Saying more would spoil the film’s surprises, suffice it to say the police are the least of Sam’s problems now.

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AM1200 starts out like a crime film, with the news of Harry’s death on the radio and a montage of flashbacks. They give us a basic idea of what has happened but no details. Then once Sam hears the distress call, it switches over into horror mode and really takes off. Again, no details are given, we see what is happening but are never sure of just what is going on. And it’s done well enough that rather than be frustrating and confusing, it’s scary and unsettling. The station itself, in very obvious disarray and empty except for its lone occupant, is about as creepy a setting as you could ask for. And as he goes deeper into the building, it only becomes worse.

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Writer/director David Prior’s background was industrial films and special features for DVDs. He obviously learned well from the films he did them for because he hands in a well done, nearly flawless film. With this as a calling card, he should have gotten offers to do low budget horror films if nothing else. AM1200 shows he can deliver fear on a budget. So it’s mystifying why it’s taken until now for him to get a feature project, THE EMPTY MAN, which will be out later this year.

AM1200 hasn’t always been an easy film to find. There were a limited number of DVDs made and sold via the film’s website. Now the makers have put the film up on Vimeo for a free watch. The film’s website is still there but hasn’t been updated since 2010. Which in its own way is as ghostly as AM1200’s station…

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