“The Lord giveth. The chamber taketh away.”

The Ackerman’s have a family business: torture. When older brother Tyler (Seth O’Shea) goes missing, his sister Ava (Jessica Vano) is left in charge. She’s a woman with something to prove, and she’s going to assert her dominance on the Chamber’s next victim. Unfortunately for her, something paranormal has been unleashed on her town and she’s going to need help. Are her hapless lackeys up to the task, or will she give in and enlist the one man capable of eliminating such evil?

The Chamber of Terror is a hilariously gory romp through writer/director Michael Pereira’s deviant mind. With several shorts under his belt, this is his first feature length film since his directing debut in 2006 (Dillenger’s Diablos), which was also a comedy horror. With a meager budget and a diverse cast, The Chamber of Terror accomplishes what very few movies of this genre can do: it keeps you genuinely entertained right up to the end credit roll.

Pereira’s directing is somewhat shaky in the first third of the movie, but he quickly finds his feet and takes what could have been a disappointing watch from “okay” to “OMFG!!”, in a very good way. Several members of the cast are underused in the beginning of the story, but Mr. Nash Effing Caruthers (Timothy Paul McCarthy) smashes every scene out of the park, playing the Nicolas Cage-sunglasses at night-bad boy wannabe that seems so at home in his role I want to say he’s seen every Nicflick to date. McCarthy has Cage’s mannerisms nailed but adds a little of his own personality to his lines making him feel like he could be Jim Beaver’s eccentric cousin. Move over Supernatural, Nash Caruthers is reluctantly on the case.

When Pereira lets go of some of his control over the cast, moving from short, close-up flashes to longer, distance-panned shots, the actors begin to shine. One of the most impressive transformations is performed by Ry Barrett (as Lennox) near the mid-point in the film. Until this scene, he is just one of “the family’s” thugs, but when left alone with one of his captives he breaks into an impassioned soliloquy that shows his true acting ability . He is clearly lost in the moment, expressing what can only be described as “pent-up psychopathy” with such sincerity it almost seems out of place in this production, but it works. Barrett deserves the time he was given in this film and much more.

By the time award-winning Canadian screen and stage actor Robert Nolan joins the scene, we are already fully ensconced in Pereira’s deranged underworld of justice and punishment. Nolan is a natural as the head of the Ackerman family, his performance reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs, but with an obviously twisted sense of humour. Consider this a gift: watch his face when his son Tyler asks, “Where’s Gino?”.

The soundtrack is what one would expect for a low-budget indie that has to rely on public domain music, but I challenge you to listen to the tracks playing whenever a scene is shot inside a vehicle and try to identify it. I’d swear it’s the weird “Surfin’ Christmas” CD I got from Dollarama 20 years ago. The special effects are so spectacular, one shot is played twice in a row to make sure you really saw it.

The Chamber of Terror does have a plot line, but to give you any further details about it would spoil the buildup that Pereira is going for. This is the movie to watch if you enjoy on-purpose over-the-top acting, ridiculously confident breakage of the fourth wall, and gobs of fake blood. It’s Canada’s nod to the Evil Dead (check out the license plate!), and well worth the price of a ticket.

The Chamber of Terror was viewed at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival 2021.

More Film Festival Coverage