You have to give credit to writer/director Daniel C. Nyiri, his debut film Confession is certainly not a typical low budget serial killer film. Despite the budget or lack thereof, the film used dozens of locations and nearly 30 speaking roles. And rather than citing Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer or the Manson killings as inspiration, Nyiri cites the works of Aaron Sorkin and Paddy Chayefsky.
The result is a two-hour film that deals with some big themes rather than scares and dialogue rather than bloodshed. It’s an audacious move for a first-time director, how well did he pull it off?
Detective Lamb (Gary C. Stillman) Is called to the scene of a grizzly double homicide. At the same time, Dean McCallum (Gavin Lyall) walks into a cafe covered in blood. According to everyone he’s a wonderful human being and would never do anything like that.
Lamb and his partner Detective Herrera (Queena DeLany) are getting get nowhere with interrogations. He claims responsibility for a wide range of deaths, some with details. Details he knows because he says, he’s not human. His evaluation by Dr. Waverly (Cynthia Martells, Gattaca) is unnerving. McCallum tells her things about her past there’s no way he could have known. Odd things begin to happen involving him or those on the case.
The plot synopsis had me thinking Confession would be something similar to Through A Dark Mirror, coincidentally also made by a first time director. But the similarities are fairly superficial. As are similarities to the other film it brought to mind, Mr. Frost.
The director describes Confession as “an intelligent crime drama with supernatural elements”, and that’s a fairly accurate description. In fact, some of the opening scenes are downright creepy. A strange procession of the blind in front of somebody’s house, a tent that vanishes along with its hammer-wielding occupant, quietly unsettling things like that.
Once it moves to police procedural though, Confession changes tones away from the scary and becomes more of a mystery. It’s not a conventional mystery, there’s no doubt he’s guilty. It’s a question of who “he” is. A brilliant psychopath with some psychic ability? Someone possessed by a demon? Or, is he, as he claims, God?
Up until the last forty-five or so minutes, this all works pretty well. The script doles out clues as the characters engage in some interesting verbal sparring. But once the truth comes out the focus shifts again and Confession becomes a theological film. I use the word theological rather than religious for a reason. Calling it a religious film makes you think of faith-based films, and this is anything but that. Much of the last act is discussions between Lamb and McCallum about the nature of religion, of God and mankind.
I’m not a particularly religious person and some of this was lost on me. If you have an interest in theology you’ll probably find these scenes a lot more interesting. If you’re a true believer you’ll probably be contemplating stoning Mr. Nyiri in the village square.
For a film made for about twenty thousand dollars, Confession looks and sounds quite good. I especially liked the way they created Hell out of an office building’s basement. It’s imaginative and effective.
However, at an hour and fifty-eight minutes, Confession runs too long. Several scenes could be trimmed or even cut entirely to improve the film’s pace and flow. And, while the main cast is good, some of the actors in smaller roles are noticeably bad.
Confession is available to stream via Indie Rights Pictures. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more info.