Winner of Brooklyn Horror Film Fest’s “Best Effects” award, The Master Cleanse, has a star studded cast that includes Johnny Galecki, Anjelica Huston, Oliver Platt, Anna Friel, and Kyle Gallner. On top of the incredible effects and amazing cast, the film also has a great script, a fantastic sense of humor, and legitimately great cinematography. A film like this is very impressive for any filmmaker, but even moreso when considering that it’s a debut feature from a young director.
The Master Cleanse is the story of a group of people going on a spiritual retreat to cleanse their bodies of both physical and emotional toxins. Our protagonist is Paul (Johnny Galecki) who is heartbroken from being dumped at the altar by his fiancee. He goes on an exclusive retreat called “Let’s Get Pure” in part to recover and in part to spend time with Maggie (Anna Friel), a beautiful young woman who will also be in attendance.
On Day 1, the attendees begin a juice cleanse, which should not be surprising to the viewer seeing as many diet fads with this same name and specific juice recipes have existed for years and years. The concoction that the group imbibes is hard to swallow, but they all force it down. Soon thereafter, the “elimination” phase begins, with the attendees expelling their “toxins” out of both ends.
During this elimination phase, something unexpected happens when out of their bodies come adorable little creatures. Yes, you read that right… adorable little creatures. We initially are introduced to Paul’s little blue blobby thing, which he is first horribly frightened of. Soon, the little guy wins Paul over with cute little coos and the two being an odd couple of sorts. All the while this is happening, the others are also meeting their little elimination buddies.
This is the setup for an interesting transition into the final phase of their cleansing retreat, which is dubbed “termination”. The creator of this cleanse arrives to help the group complete their process and decisions on how to proceed forth must be made by all of the attendees. We soon find out that a few of the retreaters encounter some very difficult situations that drastically affect their lives, some even losing their lives. It is also at this point when the film shifts tonally more towards horror and dread.
The film is an odd little gem, intimate and small while also displaying some incredible special effects. The effects are notably fantastic in regards to creature design. Not since Gremlins, has a small creature been as effectively developed as a character. The metaphorical world and the real world collide with near perfection.
The performances are very strong here, as well. None of the actors feel like a weak spot in the cast. The major players carry the film and the supporting cast are equally confident in their roles. Despite being an off the wall concept in many ways, the acting keeps the film rooted in reality.
In addition to some horror moments and an overall sci-fi drama feel, the film is pretty damn funny. Played completely straight, the humor is in the story itself. The script is extremely clever this way, where it will make most folks chuckle despite not having anything resembling a traditional joke. This is a huge part of the film’s charm.
This highly recommended film was but one of the many that wowed the audiences and judges of the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival. Two panels of judges (including folks like Sam Zimmerman of Shudder, film critic Eric Walkuski, and several of the directors at the festival) looked at the features and shorts, respectively. Amongst the winners were feature films like We Are the Flesh and Without Name and shorts like The Puppet Man and Pigskin. For a full list of films and awards you can head to the official BHFF website.
Congrats to Brooklyn Horror Film Fest on a great inaugural year and congrats to the great indie flicks that truly impressed the festgoers. I think it’s fair to dub the BHFF a success and we here at The Farsighted were glad to have a chance to be a part of the great new festival. We hope to bring you even more coverage next year.