By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
It was recently announced that the Dances With Films NYC will host the world premiere of The Activated Man as its Closing Night film. From director Nicholas Gyeney (Beta Test, Ultra Low), The Activated Man is a new horror thriller about a man named Ors (played by well-known impressionist and star of Star Wars fan films Jamie Costa), who struggles following the loss of his beloved dog to cancer. While Ors grieves deeply for his lost loved one, with the support of his girlfriend Sarah (played by Ivana Rojas), he begins to experience strange visions of a mysterious figure wearing a fedora. As Ors questions whether he has lost a grip on reality or is indeed facing a shadowy threat in The Fedora Man, a mysterious string of murder-suicides continue to plague the city and eventually seem to be related to what Ors is experiencing.
The Activated Man is the kind of mind-bending horror flick that will likely appeal to fans of similarly hallucinogenic and hypnotic films like 1408, Mandy, Color Out of Space, and Jacob’s Ladder. It embodies the type of horror in which the lines between reality and fiction are blurred as the lead character (and, in turn, the audience) is continually questioning what is real. For the most part, this makes for a film rich in memorable imagery and intriguing in the mysteriousness of its slowly unfolding plot. Thematically, the film is far from the first horror film to explore grief and ultimately does so in an effective, albeit conventional, way.
Perhaps the most commendable element of The Activated Man is the creepy atmosphere it evokes. Beginning with an opening credits theme with similarities to John Carpenter’s eerie Halloween theme, the film possesses an unnerving atmosphere that makes watching even the most mundane of scenes somewhat unsettling. It’s a testament to the strength and ambition of the film that it maintains this atmosphere for the bulk of its bloated 115 minute runtime.
Playing beautifully into this atmosphere is the decision to cast horror legends Tony Todd (Candyman) and Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th Parts VII-X) in key roles. Todd enters the story early on as a mysterious neighbor of Ors and serves an integral role in the plot in providing key exposition. These scenes could have come across as tiring due to their narrative purpose, but Todd has such an effective scene presence that these moments quickly become consuming.
And, somewhat like Todd and Hodder’s films in Candyman and Friday the 13th respectively, The Activated Man features a memorable central horror figure in The Fedora Man. Brought to life by longtime Gyeney collaborator Scott Brown, the Fedora Man is a terrifying figure when he is on screen. Even a fleeting glance at the film’s poster will show just how interesting and menacing the Fedora Man is, and the film lives up to its potential in this regard with a horror figure you won’t soon forget.
Although the film finds success with its inclusion of horror icons (in Todd and Hodder) and a horror villain (in The Fedora Man), other performances in the film are somewhat lacking. Jamie Costa is a serviceable lead, but much of his surrounding cast lag behind and, at times, take one out of the viewing experience.
Perhaps most damningly of The Activated Man is its sluggish pacing and desperate need for tighter editing. At 115 minutes, The Activated Man is by no means a long film and yet the runtime is definitely felt. Scenes tend to overstay their welcome, conversations tend to become repetitive and last too long, and, in general, the film would have benefitted from more vibrancy in its pacing. Trimming a decent 20 minutes off of the film, with a more concise edit and tighter script, would have made the film significantly more enjoyable.
The Activated Man is far from the perfect horror film, but nonetheless has a number of admirable qualities worth noting. From its unnerving tone to an eerie score, the film excels as an atmospheric and visually interesting scary outing. The inclusion of two horror legends Tony Todd and Kane Hodder elevate the proceedings and help overlook some of the other, less-than-stellar performances. Despite boasting a bloated runtime, attributable to the need for tighter editing and a more concise script, The Activated Man excels with its inclusion of a memorable new horror movie villain in The Fedora Man.