FrightFest 2023 Review: THORNS Is A Down & Dirty 1980s Inspired Horror

4 out of 5 stars

Writer/director Douglas Schulze takes horror back to a simpler time with his latest film, Thorns. A throwback to films like Alien, The Thing and Hellraiser, the low budget filmmaker appears to relish taking on the genre tropes of yore with this tight little creature feature. Compact and claustrophobic, Thorns plays like the type of film you might have rented on VHS in the 1980s – simply because the cover art promised plenty of gore and nightmare inducing scares. 

When a signal from deep space implies serious ramifications for earth and mankind, former priest turned scientist (Jon Bennett) is sent to a remote observation post to try and discover its origin. On arrival, he finds the facility all but abandoned, save for a lone nun (Cassandra Schomer) and a thorned monster (Bo Shumaker) who wants to see science and religion collide by bringing on the end of days. Amongst the mix is mysterious Archbishop (Hellraiser‘s Pinhead, Doug Bradley), a man of the cloth who may know more than he’s letting on. 

Over the last thirty years Schulze has worked within horror, crafting a range of films which push the boundaries of low-budget storytelling with interesting and creative concepts. An independent filmmaker in the truest sense, Schulze’s filmography includes Hellmaster, Dark Fields, Mimesis: Night Of The Living DeadMimesis: Nosferatu and  The Dark Below  – efforts which show a keen understanding of the genre’s long legacy. Thorns continues that trend, delivering a bloody monster movie which also throws a little bit of theology into the mix. 

Thorns doesn’t have a huge budget, but it does have a scrappiness that adds to its charm. It was never made to compete with the Conjurings of this world, it’s a film which will find its audience across the festival circuit and then later on streaming services. It’s made for genre fans – those who seek out the obscure…the dark…the weird. At the centre of Thorns’ dark heart sit a few eye-watering moments of practical bloody gore – sequences which pack a punch and belie its low budget. Throw in an intriguing Carpenter-esqe score and an ending that delivers some unexpected turns and you have a film which quietly delivers. 

Thorns is a horror film made for fans of the genre by one of their own. It delivers everything you would want, while also subverting your expectations. Those eager for the slick production values of mainstream horror should look elsewhere – Thorns is a horror film for people who like things a little down and dirty.