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Review: ARTIK (2019)

Just when I was getting about as burnt out with serial killers as I am with zombies, along comes a film that breathes some fresh life into it. Artik is a fusion of Martyrs and Frailty with a comic book and superhero obsessed killer.

Artik (Jerry G. Angelo, Texas Zombie Wars: Dallas) is a big bearded hulk of a man. He lives on a sunflower farm with his wife Flin (Lauren Ashley Carter, Black Site, Gags The Clown) and the boys they’ve kidnapped to work it. Boy Adam (Gavin White, 14 Cameras) is special, though. Artik is training him to take on his quest to find a true hero, a process that involves pain, torture, and death.

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Things are going according to plan until Adam meets Holton (Chase Williamson, Dead Night, Scare Package). A straight edge type who grew up with abusive addicts for parents, he realizes Adam has a troubled home life. But he has no idea how bad, or how much danger he’s putting himself and those around him in when he tries to help the boy.

The film signals its intentions early, as almost as soon as the credits are done as we see Adam get a front-row seat to a good Samaritan being killed. And then to Artik lecturing the corpse about its weakness. This isn’t going to be a simple slasher, writer/director Tom Botchii Skowronski has some things on his mind, and he’s putting it on the screen. At times, with an intensity that makes me wonder what his childhood was like. He has said the title character is based on his father, the question is, how much.

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The portrayal of this dysfunctional family is one of the things that makes Artik so unsettling. Carter really shines here as Flin. In some ways, she’s scarier than he is. She’s a typical stay at home mother caring for her family. Except her family consists of child slaves and her husband is torturing people to try and find the next Batman. When he’s not drawing comic books.

While the characters and their motivations are well drawn out within the film, the lack of backstory hurts the film. There’s got to be a fascinating story in how Artik and Flin got to where they are now. Artik clocks in at a fast 78 minutes, so there was time for some explanations.

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What the film does have is some brutally applied violence. Artik’s homemade torture chamber is a scary place. And he knows how to use it to inflict maximum pain. I winced more than once during the torture scenes.

A nasty, grim film with unsettling themes about family, child abuse and the scars it leaves, Artik isn’t for those looking for the next Terrifier. This is a film about a kind of darkness that hits you in the mind, not just in the gut.

Artik is available from Epic Pictures via their Dread label. Check out the film’s Facebook page for more details.

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