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Fang (2022) Review

Fang, (not to be confused with Adam Steigert’s werewolf film Fang), is the story of Billy Cochran (Dylan LaRay, Bros, Hospitality). Billy wants to be an artist, a comic book artist to be precise. Instead, he works a shitty job in a dirty-looking factory and takes care of his increasingly senile mother Gina (Lynn Lowry, Necropolis: Legion, Guns of Eden) in the dingy Chicago apartment they share.

As if that wasn’t enough, his paycheck bounces, and his boss (Tom White) gives him a lecture rather than taking care of it. Then he has another unpleasant encounter with a rat, this time of the four-legged variety, and that’s when things really start to get bad.

Writer/director Richard Burgin (All Ears, The Identity Club) opens Fang with a dose of grim drama that feels entirely too real. The poverty and despair may not be as extreme as in films like Combat Shock or Driller Killer, and the drugs may be prescribed rather than from the street, but it’s channelling the same feelings they, and other 70s urban horrors, drew from.

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Once the effects of the rat’s bite start manifesting themselves, we’re left to wonder what is going on. We know Billy is having hallucinations, but are the sore and the spreading rash real? Did he get some kind of disease or infection the hospital’s treatment didn’t prevent? Is the strain of dealing with everything that’s going on, including his attraction for Myra (Jess Paul, Rehabilitation of the Hill, Brew House) his mother’s new care aid, causing his own mind to unravel? Or is he actually transforming into something not quite human?

Even without that possibility, the film is full of uncomfortable and horrific moments of a different kind. Billy’s sudden rush to the bathroom after first meeting Myra, for example. And Gina’s worsening mental state produces some intensely disturbing moments, especially if you’ve ever dealt with a person suffering from dementia. There’s a scene around the hour mark that made my skin crawl, and I can’t imagine it not getting a reaction from other viewers as well.

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Much of this is made possible by strong performances by all three of the leads. Lowry of course has a career that stretches back to I Drink Your Blood in 1971 and includes films by George Romero, David Cronenberg, and Paul Schrader. We expect great performances from her. But LaRay and Paul were genuine surprises, and hopefully, this will end up being a showcase for their talents because they both deserve to get noticed.

Cinematographer Jason Kraynek (Heaven Is Hell, CarnEvil Nights) also deserves a mention as well. He delivers realistic and claustrophobic shots in the first part of the film. Then, as things begin to slide into the Twilight Zone, they’re mixed with shots that are more distorted, in both their angles and lighting. It goes a long way toward maintaining the film’s atmosphere of uncertainty about just what is happening.

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Fang is an impressive first feature for Richard Burgin. This is the kind of psychological horror that’s easy to get wrong and wind up with something that’s either too restrained and ends up dull, or goes over the top and becomes melodramatic and unintentionally funny. But he manages to keep things under control, and, while I suspected where it was going, I couldn’t be entirely sure until the last act.

Fang had its premiere on November 29th in Chicago. Burgin is hoping to get his film some exposure on the festival circuit and distribution in the coming year. Given some of the films that get released, I can’t imagine that will take too long, though. You can check the film’s Facebook page for announcements. And while you wait, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions for similar films.

Where to watch Fang
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