October Horrorshow: Derelict

The abandoned South Fremantle Power Station outside of Perth, Western Australia, makes the old urbexer in me salivate. It’s a beautiful location on the outside, although inside it’s hollowed out and covered in sloppy graffiti. It was locations like this that made me get into urbex in the first place. The industrial giants of the past are true brick and stone monuments to the 20th century, and have since been subject to the ruthless cost-cutting of capitalism. It’s a set of architectural styles that will likely never appear again, as buildings and materials keep getting cheaper. Indeed, South Fremantle Power Station was closed in the 1980s, yet there it is, still standing, decades after all maintenance ceased. They built the place thirty years tougher than it needed to be, and counting.

Anyway, the South Fremantle Power Station provides the only location for the horror film Derelict, from 2017. Brothers Christian and James Broadhurst directed, from a screenplay penned by Christian. The film stars the other Broadhurst, James, along with Christopher Sansoni and Tristan Balz, as urban explorers Rowan, Andre, and Michael. Andre is the only one of the three who has any real experience with urbex, and he takes it very seriously, while Michael is portrayed as an annoying rookie, and Rowan as a mindless vandal.

The power station is in a much more isolated place in this movie than in real life, requiring a long hike to get there. This was done to make the coming plight of the characters seem more dire — as if civilization was so far away that no help would be forthcoming. It wasn’t all that necessary, as the plot took care of any outside interference.

While the three explorers are tooling around, they become trapped in the basement of the station by a crowbar-wielding man in a gas mask. These unfortunate lads have discovered, as all urban explorers do, that there is no such thing as an abandoned building. People Derelictcrawl all over those things. In my days of breathing in asbestos and testing the weight limits of rusty stairs, I think there were only three or four occasions when I and my partners were alone in whatever site we were exploring. Just because the owners have given up on a property, doesn’t mean everyone else has.

The nutjob with the mask and the crowbar isn’t some homeless guy or middle school kid throwing rocks at windows. He’s a killer, and he chases the three far enough into the basement that they get lost. While down there, they come across a starving and dehydrated man, Liam (Justin Burford), who has been lost in the basement for weeks, after the crazy man set upon he and his crew of urbexers.

Not too long after, we find out that exploring an old building isn’t the main reason Andre chose the location. As Liam and Andre tell the others, the company that used to run the station stored tons of toxic chemicals in the basement, and they’re a modern drug-user’s dream, apparently. That’s right. Andre convinced his friends to go into an abandoned building so he could find some mythical paint thinner to huff, and he tried hiding that from them. And it looks like the stuff is being guarded over by a homicidal maniac. How insane is that?

Mom, if you’re reading this, know that not once did I ever go trudging through an abandoned building in search of paint thinner. I wouldn’t be that stupid. I had my eye out for ether.

The majority of the film ends up taking place in this dark basement. The 2nd and 3rd acts are all just the cast wandering around looking for the exit, while occasionally being pursued by the maniac. It looks like most of the film was shot in the same hallways and rooms, just from different angles to make the basement seem expansive. It’s a method used by a few horror flicks that take place underground, such as The Tunnel and As Above, So Below. Just like in those flicks, frantically running around the same tunnels over and over again pads the running time and fleshes out a thin plot.

The other way the Broadhursts extend things is with inane dialogue. Andre and Rowan are a touchy pair, ready with a harsh word at a moment’s notice. In fact, there isn’t a likable character in the film. They’re all jerks, which, combined with amateurish reads, adds to the pain of watching this film.

There’s nothing new in Derelict, although huffing paint thinner as a plot device was a wrinkle that got a laugh out of me. And, as I wrote above, I really liked the location. But that’s it. This movie sucks. It goes way down in the Shitty Movie Sundays Watchability Index, falling to #195, in between LA Crackdown and Village of the Damned. Stay away.

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