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FrightFest Review: CHEAT

Updated: Feb 4

A ghostly affair

Filmmaking duo Kevin Ignatius and Nick Psinakis’ entry from this year’s FrightFest is a creepy little indie horror with a rather neat McGuffin centred around infidelity. The film opens in Silver Creek, Pennsylvania in 1888 where the unconscious body of a young woman is carried to a barn, strung up and murdered in cold blood. Flash forward to the present day and the story of Clara Miller has become another urban legend in which people who cheat on their significant other are violently killed. When college student Maeve (Corin Clay) sleeps with Charlie (Michael Thyler) the married man of the host family she is staying with the Silver Creek curse closes in on them. With the aid of her friends, they did into the history of the town in an effort to escape the vengeful spirit.

As an independent film, there is a huge amount to be admired here, especially in Ignatius and Psinakis' use of framing, and cinematographer Connor Smyers’ ‘magic hours’ that lend a different palette to the film from dawn to dusk painting a cold, isolated feel of a small University town. If anything, the graphic designer in me would be more critical of the opening title design that tends to fall into the trappings of default effects, feeling like a horrific PowerPoint presentation. If there were some further criticisms it would be in some of the choices of dialogue and delivery that can feel a little awkward and stiff at times amongst actors who have little chemistry. However, although references to a suicide epidemic are somewhat lost, the tone and hook of the film elevate the proceedings enough to keep you engaged with the story’s central mystery and what feels like a ghost story becomes something that little more tangible as Clara’s purpose (and presence) is revealed. One of the most impressive aspects of the film is the music. While Nick Psinakis also takes on editing duties, Kevin Ignatius with the help of his brother Mark imbues the film with a synth-inspired score, with singer/songwriter, Sara Aiello performing the closing track “Deep Blue”, which provides the perfect sense of closure and melancholy after the film’s final reveal.

What could have become a much louder affair, moves along at a slower pace, more akin to films of the ’70s, rather than the ’90s and early noughties it often aligns itself to. This is (surprisingly) a more restrained effort in its sex, violence, and horror and although tends to fall into the trappings we associated with the tropes and conventions of haunted tales, feels like it hints at enough to play with for further stories; including the presence of Clara’s infamous father. With echoes of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows and Michael O’Shea’s The Transfiguration, Cheat may not quite deliver for those expecting the next James Wan movie but certainly more than holds up against its low budget and indie contemporaries.


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