The King (2005)

Film: The King (2005)
Director: James Marsh
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal
Rating: ****

This American Indie is refreshingly different: this is modern Gothic Horror at its finest and most subtle. Gael Garcia Bernal produces a fine performance as Elvis Valderez, recently discharged from the Navy and in search of the father he has never known; Baptist preacher David Sandow (William Hurt).
Elvis immerses himself into the small Texan community of his reluctant father’s new family and embarks on a mission of destruction: the heartbreaking seduction of his young half-sister Melorie (Pell James). If James’ understated performance is the result of a minimalist script which neglects its female characters, it nonetheless works. compunding a sense of horror as Elvis penetrates her simple and vulnerable world.

Set against the garish backdrop of Glad Tidings Ministry (complete with neon sign), religious notions of righteousness, worship and control are forcefully confronted. Though a little satirical, the presentation of religion has some elegant touches. Hypocrisy is explored in the form of animal cruelty and human exploitation. Most memorably, when Melorie pins a crucifix to Elvis’ collar after he has brutally murdered her brother, her ironic gesture challenges ideas of morality and judgement.
The striking artistic detail makes it stand out. The Cinematography is stylish. ranging from atmospheric shots of rural Texas to stylised shots of the Sandown’s manicured garden that give a surreal twist to their American-dream home. Lichtenstein’s score, too, is quirky and disorientating, building as Elvis descends into cruelty and destruction.

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