Muse, the feature-length horror debut of director John Burr, shows off an artist who can’t find just that. His muse. As he struggles to find inspiration for his art and work, he comes across a mythical spirit from Celtic lore. Certainly an interesting premise, but one that isn’t fleshed out in the slightest or all that entertaining either. Devolving rapidly into the sort of film I try my absolute best to avoid, Muse is a rather rancid film with a core idea that would have worked with a bit of finesse.
From the very first few moments, Muse is up in arms, quite literally in fact. Dropping us right into the forest with two unnamed characters, the spooky thrills and chills are up for grabs before any sort of plot has been established. Whilst director John Burr doesn’t exactly throw caution to the wind, his style is at least a tier above that of the average independent horror. Not by much, but a certain improvement in his camera framing, utilisation of unique styles, extreme close-ups and does do a relatively competent job. He sets the scene well, his direction is often clear and crisp, it’s just a shame that everything Burr looks to demonstrate is fumbled by his cast of caricatures.
Writing that makes the more terrifying portions of the film feel inconsequential or coincidental, the supporting characters in this one are of real issue. Although our leading man, Jason Block (Lou Ferrigno Jr) is completely palatable, most of the issues come from when he has to interact with someone else on screen. He can hold his own, but when anyone else is present it feels like a ridiculous premise or just incompetent conversation. None of it feels very natural, and the actors throughout do feel both out of place and in over their heads. Maria (Kate Mansi) provides us with the cliché romantic interest, but the two struggle in sets that feel empty and poorly lit. Some of the interactions between characters are laughably awkward, setting a tremendous disconnect between performer and character.
It doesn’t help that the technical side of this feature is all over the place. Audio mixing that bolsters a generic backing track for party scenes and drowns out the whispered dialogue. Performances that don’t exactly exude talent and are robotic in their movements and decrepit in their delivery. Chewing the scenery is an understatement for this one, massacring the canvas would be better suited to the style of delivery here. There’s no drive or development to our main character either, with the horror, guts and gore coming in rather brief, futile moments that are plastered onto an achingly dull erotic drama.
Muse doesn’t so much paint a picture as it scribbles a doodle, a mere outline of what it should have been. I can appreciate the film at times being rather clumsy or amateurish, Muse feels like an independent project and certainly looks like one also. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a tad tragic that the scariest part of this horror is its supporting performances. A genuinely ridiculous film, one that feels like it injects all the worst tropes of the genre with steroids as its incompetent story unfolds.