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“THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES” (Film Review)

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Writer/director Christopher P. Garetano’s arch pseudo-documentary THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES has existed in various forms and cuts for almost five years. Screened publicly in 2012, Garetano kept obsessively tinkering with the film, adding footage, re-structuring and delaying its official release time and time again. Of course, for those that were following its stop-and-start existence, the behind the scenes drama only added to the myth of the film and drew attention the shadowy conspiracies it aims to investigate. Now, New Yorkers will have the chance to catch the world premiere of the current – and purportedly final – cut, screening as part of the Third Annual Phillip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, this Saturday at 5 p.m. at The Producer’s Club.

Your interest in THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES depends mightily on your interest in conspiracy theories, alien insurgence and other things charted nightly on syndicated radio shows like COAST TO COAST. The film tells the tale of long dormant Long Island military based Camp Hero, a near century-old spot that was at the center of some very eerie reported occurrences in the 1970’s involving mind experiments, Alien examinations, torture and time travel. Garetano uses the recollections of three men: Alfred Bielek, Stewart Swerdlow and Preston Nichols who all swear they saw the unseeable and were subjected to the unspeakable while locked within the subterranean confines of Camp Hero.

If you buy their wild tales of the fantastic, then you’ll be riveted by THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES. If you think its all bunk, you’ll raise an eyebrow and roll an eyeball at the way Garetano (who is in the movie as well) earnestly follows their leads and frames their stories. But that doesn’t mean you won’t be equally as glued to the screen. It’s not clear whether or not Garetano believes that anything really happened at Camp Hero, but he uses the story to flex his own phantasmagorical visions and, my God, what visions they are…

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Anyone who has seen Garetano’s short film COTTONMOUTH (in which this writer provided some of the music) knows that the filmmaker has a deft eye for nightmarish, fetishized visuals. When THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES breaks from meticulously shot talking head footage, Garetano launches into long, visionary and often utterly horrifying realizations of the trio’s tall tales. Scenes of exploding liquids, tormented victims and fanged, drooling extraterrestrials accompanied by a dense sound design are passages that won’t soon leave your mind.

By the time the film wraps, many questions are asked about the dirty deeds done and no matter your take, Garetano’s intelligent sense of cinema is a force to be reckoned with, and his ability to visualize the stuff nightmares are made of is peerless. This is a fascinating, strange film about a fascinating, strange series of events made by an artist who has little interest in playing by the rules.

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To grab tickets for THE MONTAUK CHRONICLES screening this Saturday, visit www.ThePhilipKDickFilmFestival.com.

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About the author
Chris Alexander

Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.

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