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Review by Clayton Barr

enik1138
-at-popapostle-dot-com
 
The Spirit Gallery The Spirit Gallery
Movie
Written, Produced and Directed by John Strysik
Originally released on VHS 1995
DVD release 2019

The Spirit Gallery is a shot-on-video (SOV) movie orginally released on VHS in 1995, now available on DVD as of October 2019 from SOVhorror.com. Written, produced and directed by John Strysik (known to PopApostle readers for his work on the 1991-1992 Land of the Lost TV series), The Spirit Gallery is a creepy little feature if you can forgive the soap opera look of it produced by having been shot on video instead of film, having the feeling of an extended Tales from the Darkside episode (a series on which Strysik also worked).

 

Gwendolyn Creed (Holly Riddle) is a Christian woman who has a pureness to her, yet is somewhat fickle in her devotion (she seems to grow angry at a crucifix in her apartment when she gets a zit on her face, as if blaming God for it) and who seems almost oblivious to the existence of evil (she even says of the concept of being raped, "That's his sin, not mine...to me it just doesn't exist."). She is a fan of the artist B.A. Catch (Jim Burkhart), though it seems as if she's never seen his art, only having read about how incredible it is, as Catch apparently does not allow photographs of himself or his art. Her new boss, art dealer Gideon Haul (Leonard Parnell) is the reclusive Catch's agent for art sales and offers to introduce her to the great man. Unknown to her, Haul and Catch each have a secret: Catch is able to sculpt busts of human subjects from ectoplasm ejaculated from his hands which steals the subject's spirit; and Haul enjoys fantasies in a dream state of being beaten and uses a Catch scupture of a "healing woman" to heal his injuries after each masochistic session, but the power of the sculpture is running out and he needs to find a new person for Catch to sculpt as a new healer. Enter Gwendolyn, who is only too happy to pose for Catch. But she is horrified upon seeing the almost finished sculpture, a twisted and deformed version of her face, and things take a horrifying twist from there.

 

The movie's theme seems to be art and the proverbial tortured artist and, in this case, the tortured subject. The theme even goes so far as encompass religious iconography such as the Christian crucifix, an expression of tortured art if there ever was one!

 

Many (or even most) SOV projects are strictly amateur productions, but Strysik comes armed with his professional experience on Tales from the Darkside and the camera work/photography is quite good given the limitations of video; light is used effectively and the infamous white washouts and fuzziness of rapid camera movements on video is largely avoided. Riddle and Burkhart do a good job in their leading roles. The only other actor with significant screen time is Parnell as Haul, who is a bit stiff, but certainly passable.

 

The DVD release: Though nothing fancy, this release is more than adquately packaged. Many DVDs of low-budget features have low sound quality, which this release avoids. The audio is sharp and clear...and loud, almost too loud (I had to turn the sound down on my entertainment center while it played, which almost never happens with a video release!). Included on the DVD are an audio commentary by Strysik (he delivers a broad discussion of the writing and shooting of the film, but I wish he'd also talked about why it was produced when it was, did he have financial backers besides himself, was a video distribution deal in place at the time, etc.) and a 1977 short film by Strysik, Young People in Trouble, a strange, Lynchian film itself (before Lynchian was a term!). The DVD also comes with an article excerpt printed on card stock; the article is the one about B.A. Catch that Gwendolyn has framed in her apartment wall in the movie.

 

This dream-like, hallucinogenic release is worth a viewing for fans of artsy horror or David Lynch. It is available on DVD from SOVhorror.com.

 

Holly Riddle as Gwendolyn Creed Catch and Creed
Holly Riddle as Gwendolyn Creed Catch and Gwendolyn