Rebecca Faraway (Sarah Beck Mather) is a rookie detective who, for her first murder case, is assigned to investigate a potential serial killer who is leaving their victims’ bodies in abanoned derelict buildings. The crime scenes are marked with ritualistic circles on the ground and feature cryptic numbers carved into the walls.
As if the case weren’t enough of a mental strain for the young policewoman, she has been partnered with an obnoxious veteran detective who seemingly has little respect or patience for the rookie. As the film opens, the partners are in route to the scene of another murder. The older detective warns his young burden not to embarrass him by puking near the evidence this time.
The story of Rebecca’s vomiting on her first crime scene would appear to have made its way around the department, as even the pathologist makes jokes at her expense about the incident. However, as some of the bodies have been sitting around for an extended time, they aren’t exactly in the freshest condition when discovered… if you know what I mean.
Two other detectives on the case arrive on the scene. Much like Rebecca, her partner, and just about every other person in the film, these gentlemen are fairly crass and crude as well, and are generally unlikable characters. However, one of these men raises the possibility that the numbers found carved into the walls may actually be Bible passages, leading them to believe that these killings are indeed ritualistic in nature.
After an interview with the unfortunate security guard that discovered the body, the detectives are lead to the owner of the security company maintaining the property. The detectives interview the man, a rather nervous fellow named Tony. As might be expected, Tony is more than a little concerned about the financial hit that his company will surely take, but otherwise knows little concerning the crimes. He does, however, give the police the address and name of the developer that owns the property. While ultimately a secondary character, “Tony” may be one of the more interesting characters in the film, which unfortunately isn’t saying much. Thankfully, we will see more of him later in the film.
The detectives then turn their attentions to the developer, Michael Sweet (Jaime Satterthwaite); a pompous young man with an ego to match the size of his bank account. While more than willing to help the detectives with their initial inquiries, Sweet still seems a touch odd, admitting that he’s never actually been to most of the buildings that he owns.
Arguably just as unnerving as the crimes themselves is the fact that Rebecca is clearly dealing with some heavy anxiety issues, enough so that her stability as a person legally permitted to carry firearms really should be questioned. She has been prescribed strong anti-anxiety medication to help with these issues, but there is more than legitimate argument that they aren’t working as need be. Making this situation worse is that Rebecca’s drinking habits are reacting with her medication and are causing minor hallucinations.
The hallucinations progress as the killings continue. Eventually, more evidence comes forth to potentially link Sweet to the murders and he is brought in yet again for questioning. However, he is much more defensive and dismissive, but still manages to display amusement at the accusations. While he is unfazed by the images of the butchered victims that he is shown (in the hopes of getting a reaction from the man), Sweet does show an interest in the numbers scrawled on the crime scene walls. More worrisome, he has also developed an interest in Rebecca! While his behavior belies that of a sociopath, there is nothing to tangibly link Sweet to the murders. He is released from police custody, but is placed under 24-hour surveillance.
Later that evening, Rebecca returns home and takes her medication, which she washes down with alcohol. The combination puts her into a deep stupor. As she lies in her bed, a man (who would appear to be Sweet, but is not completely shown) is seen entering her room from inside her closet. The man approaches her bed and runs his fingers through her long hair. She rises from her bed, but the sunlight entering her windows reveals the entire incident to have been nothing more than a rather vivid dream. Or was it? Even in the light of a new day, her hallucinations continue to worsen.
The surveillance on Sweet reveals nothing and the detectives are pulled off his tail once another body surfaces. Despite new evidence that incriminates a person questioned earlier, Rebecca remains convinced that Sweet knows more about the killings than he’s admitting.
The loss of her prime suspect adds to the toll on Rebecca’s already frazzled nerves, leading her to wash down even more pills with booze and causing her hallucinations and visions to escalate. As she sleeps, the man from the closet returns to her bedside once more. This time, however, his touch wakes her… or it seemingly does, as she still appears to be in a dreamlike state or yet another hallucination. She rolls over to find Sweet standing beside her. Instead of the horror that one may normally experience when confronted with a potential serial killer that has invaded their home, Rebecca’s response is to pull the man into bed with her. Within moments, she is yanking off her clothes and riding Sweet like the quarter-operated rocking horse outside a 1970’s era department store. She soon wakes from this dream as well, a little unnerved at her nocturnal actions.
Rebecca remains convinced of Sweet’s involvement in the murders, even after the other suspect confesses to the crimes. She begins to secretly follow Sweet, even breaking into his office in the hopes of finding anything that can convict him. With each step that she takes closer to truth, her sanity become more fragile, until even she is no longer sure what is real and what isn’t.
Directed by Andy Collier & Toor Mian, Charismata spends the majority of its 90+ minute runtime feeling like a modern retread of the female-lead crime thrillers of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, such as Taking Lives or Kiss The Girls, albeit with more of a psycho-sexual edge. Unfortunately, it fails to present anything unique on the screen. There tends to be little in the line of action to liven up the moments between victims being found, and most of the characters are just too repellent to make us really care for them, Rebecca included.
Horror fans will be disappointed to learn that, while marketed as a horror film, Charismata has little going on that fits into the realm of “true” horror. That is, until the final 15 minutes. However, when these elements do finally appear, they highly disrupt the tone the film has established. More jarring, the closing moments of the film veer closer to a goofy “creature feature” or “monster movie” and comes across quite unintentionally laughable.
Charismata, despite garnering high praise from critics at certain popular horror magazines and websites, is sure to disappoint most hardened horror fans. If anything, I’m surprised that someone didn’t exploit the “sexual” angle more and slap a reference to the “50 Shades” series on the cover in the hopes of targeting the fans of that series. Honestly, the film may have received a better reception from that audience of horny buggers. On second thought, no, it probably wouldn’t.