Director Luke Boyce’s Revealer wears its ‘80s influences like a patch-covered denim jacket purchased from Hot Topic in the 2000s. It takes ambitious “saints versus sinners” swings with lower-budget means and feels the restrictions of its spending; its cinematography shoots around a theological apocalypse in sleazy confinement. Expect a contemporary slice of older-school exploitation that explores morality exercises with goop, grossness and demonic creatures—but without the more freeing genre environment that allows movies like From Beyond, Day of the Dead and more to exists on grander scales. Revealer aims for a seedy, late-night Cinemax vibe and successfully tells a story about the horrors of oppressing individual expression, but never meets the fullest potential of its premise.
Comic creators Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) and Michael Moreci (Barbaric) pen a biblical screenplay about the end of the world: Angie Pitarelli (Caitlin Aase) is the badass ‘80s vision of a Whitesnake music video starlet; Sally Mewbourne (Shaina Schrooten) is the uptight, purity-pushing disciple of God. Angie reports for another shift at Ray’s (Bishop Stevens) adult establishment—Revealer—where she dances for horndogs behind peep show plexiglass. Sally is outside protesting Angie’s floozy ways. It’s not long before the skies turn blood-red and the apocalypse is upon both girls, trapped in Angie’s peep show booth as they attempt to cleanse their souls before the final trumpet of Revelations blares.
Revealer spends the majority of its first act inside Angie’s shoddily constructed house of wank, where Angie and Sally interact with a doomsday-transformed Ray. After that, Angie and Sally escape into brick-walled underground tunnels with the threat of eternal damnation on their heels—but that’s roughly as far as backgrounds and interactions span. Revealer is Aase and Schrooten’s showcase as their odd couple characters (who may not be so different) converse throughout the impending judgments. Seeley and Moreci’s screenplay isn’t mincing messages as the perfect (in presentation) Christian daughter and easy-to-judge erotic dancer bare their insides to find tethered connections. Revealer is a horror film—a few slithery monsters threaten both girls—but more than that, it’s character study about books, their covers and taking the time to read what’s inside.
The horror elements, though, are where Revealer lacks, as actresses fend off rubbery worm-things or try to generate tension while gazing backward at tunnel entryways that echo monster snarls. Everything is lit by heavily saturated hues of reds, blues and neon colorization to sell stylized, candy-coated visuals, but what’s happening on-screen is less engaging. As Sally attempts to “squeeze” through busted drywall (the hole is gaping), or violence occurs inches outside the camera’s lens, Boyce’s effects and terrorization is never as substantial as the evolution between his leads. That’s not to mention how the labyrinth under Ray’s pleasure palace becomes a bit repetitive; the landscape never alters even with the introduction of the fully-costumed “Demon of Lust” Asmodeus (Phil Bogdan). Cue the credits just when Revealer introduces its most gripping material.
Therein lies the frustration of Revealer: A microcosm of a grander idea that always feels like it’s reaching for a higher gear. It’s minimalist out of necessity, as made evident by the production’s noticeable budgetary limitations. We’re not to be bothered by universal events—whatever Ray gazes upon that rattles him to the core, or what Sally describes from scripture passages—and from a storytelling perspective, that’s fine. Where Revealer struggles is in execution, as suspense and frightfulness never quite overcome the goofiness of what should be horrific end-times hurdles, like possessed individuals or the previously mentioned wrigglers trying to slide down its stars’ throats. Everything Boyce’s production design team accomplishes by drenching sequences in crimson shades helps, yet there’s an inescapable sensation that scenes are being held back by unforeseen forces. Whether that’s paranoia, escalation or extremism, it all unfortunately hits a ceiling.
That said, let’s honor Aase and Schrooten, because once their survival buddies escape Angie’s perv booth, their performances save what could be an even more repetitive gauntlet of personality aggression. Revealer works best when Angie and Sally display the power of compassion to get past societal preconceptions. Asmodeus’ unholy judgment is nothing compared to how religion, domestic biases and everyday decency (as decided by governing bodies) have turned us against our brothers and sisters of flesh. The chemistry between Aase and Schrooten, once their roles turn from stubborn enemies to against-odds allies, keeps us engaged, as long as you’re alright with dialogue trumping mutilation.
Weirdly enough, Revealer earns its highest marks when it’s not acting like the outrageous midnighter its logline and marketing materials present. Its intentions are appropriately impure, but feel hobbled and boxed by means that reduce sequences to their simplest executions. The performances are the key to enjoyment here amidst many shots that’d look splendid on a VHS cover, yet are more set dressing than horror storytelling victories. I teeter on a positive-negative blade, but for all its scrappiness, there’s still a beating heart at Revealer’s core. Even as Satan’s minions attack, you can chalk up a victory for the importance of self-realization.
Director: Luke Boyce
Writer: Michael Moreci, Tim Seeley
Starring: Caito Aase, Shaina Schrooten, Bishop Stevens, Buzz Leer, Phil Bogdan, Sammy DelPurgatorio
Release Date: June 23, 2022 (Shudder)
Matt Donato is a Los Angeles-based film critic currently published on SlashFilm, Fangoria, Bloody Disgusting, and anywhere else he’s allowed to spread the gospel of Demon Wind. He is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association. Definitely don’t feed him after midnight.