Revealer is a charmingly wonky horror-comedy with B-movie inflictions that both make and break the film overall.
One of the reasons why I love the horror streaming service Shudder is because it shines a light on Grindhouse films of the past decades (primarily the 60s and 70s) like The Beyond, Shock, The Switchblade Sisters, and even Kill, Baby… Kill!. Since the pandemic started, I have been watching plenty of them and learning how many of these low-budgeted pictures have helped kickstart the careers of and inspired plenty of filmmakers. There is an extensive selection in their service, ranging from 80s horror comedies to 70s gory slashers. And lately, with films like The Sadness, Virus: 32, See for Me, and Hellbender, Shudder has found ways to provide a space for directors to share their B-movie-inflected works. Most of these aforementioned films don’t have an exploitative nature, but they contain elements that derive from one of the many subgenres found in Grindhouse cinema. Their latest release, Revealer, has some of those elements but leans more towards B-movie inflictions, specifically 80s horror-comedy ones.
Revealer centers around a duo of opposite souls in a 1980s Chicago background who are trapped and stuck with each other to survive the apocalypse. There’s a peep show booth stripper named Angie Pitarelli (Caito Aase), who is a carefree woman with a punky attitude. On the other hand, there’s Sally Mewbourne (Shaina Schrooten), a religious protester that doesn’t like Angie’s line of work and expressionistic demeanor. From these descriptions, you already see that there are parallels between the two. In some ways, this implements some of the ideas that Ti West’s X had, albeit most at face value. There are the themes of religion, its fight against exposure, and the term “rapture”. However, where in X it referred to the sexual liberation of the youth intertwined with escapist religion, in Revealer it takes a more literal presentation – the end of the world by a satanic being. It’s hell on Earth, and these polar opposites must spend it together. As Sally quotes, “It’s the hour of our reckoning, and I have to spend it with you?”, adding more comedic weight to the overall product.
Here, we see the showcasing of restrictive and blind cult-esque followings that cause a person to search for freedom or ecstasy through the character of Sally and the riotous side of things with Angie. As the two try to escape the maze at the bowels of the peep show, they have conversations about sexual liberation and autonomy, each learning about their different perspectives. In these conversations, you get to know Angie and Sally better – their respective philosophies toward sexual acts, stripping, and the fine lines between what’s “right” and “wrong” in regard to the bible. The dialogue is too in the nose, given its horror-comedy grounds, which may cause audiences to either roll their eyes or keep going with the film. It may vary depending on your engagement with its 80s-inspired cliched trappings. On most occasions, the two of them are on separate sides (a bit, of course, since they are the two sides of the same coin), yet there is an understanding of each point of view.
From there comes the aspect of female empowerment. This all sounds fascinating. And, on occasions, it is, but for the most part, one has an inner feeling that they would have wanted more. It doesn’t go too in-depth as one might wish to because, in the grand scheme of things, Revealer is only a B-horror buddy-comedy with some strands of higher arching themes. The character beats are like you’d expect, and the comprehensive exploration of its themes won’t cause a grand-scale conversation. The film doesn’t reach the thematic heftiness and comedic sharpness of Paul Bartel’s cult classic, Eating Raoul, nor comes close to it because it’s hard to match it. However, it contains some poorly-crafted magnetism and ridiculousness that features like Brain Damage (1988) and There’s Nothing Out There (1991) have. Those aspects do reflect the film’s budget, for better or worse, yet there’s something quite charming about those elements. When it comes to the CGI, that’s when you start sensing its not-so-charming shoddiness.
Its practical wonkiness and visual zaniness are diminished by the supplemental CGI in some of its horror set-pieces because the creatures themselves look great – somewhat alluding to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, primarily the second installment. One issue the movie has revolves around its camerawork. It should have had a flair similar to its neon lighting – a bit of flash to engage the audience a bit more. Albeit it’s too static: there aren’t many stylistic choices in its cinematography, and you don’t sense the creative freedom of the B-horror pictures from the past. Nevertheless, what makes one watch Revealer in the first place may not be its B-movie inflictions but the chemistry between the two co-leads, Aase and Schrooten. The two of them know exactly what movie they are in, and their performances show. They play off each other smoothly, causing the viewer to keep watching the film until its very end. Revealer isn’t a revelatory experience, not even in terms of pandemic-induced restrictions. Still, it does its best with its small budget and manages to entertain for the length of its runtime.
Revealer will premiere on Shudder on June 23, 2022.