THE RETREAT - A Glossy Indie Horror Film
Can one woman be seduced by the promise of everlasting beauty? And at what price?
Claire is a model aging out of her industry living in Los Angeles. At a party in hopes of gaining connections, she learns about a remote retreat out in the desert and it sounds like paradise. A drug fueled weeklong escape where you mingle with the glitterati, find inner peace, and return feeling fresh and looking ten years younger. Rumor has it the doctor who runs it is a miracle worker.
This getaway could give Claire the boost that her career desperately needs. She jumps on the opportunity, spending the last of her savings to go.
Upon arrival, the retreat’s charismatic founder, Dr. Michael Ramdas, seduces her with the promise of everlasting beauty. In his eyes ugliness is a disease. He can cure it with his secret methods, but only if she follows his every direction without question.
Claire agrees. But the cure is worse than the disease. Dr. Ramdas’s getaway creates a drug-induced psychosis. Hallucinations and the inability to tell fantasy from reality create a waking nightmare. Claire has to leave, but will he let her?
We’ll discover the true nature of Dr. Ramdas’ getaway as the story unravels. In his attempts to cure the disease of aging, Dr. Ramdas is imprisoning and gruesomely killing his disciples. His persuasive persona has camouflaged his wildly unorthodox techniques as an amateur plastic surgeon and drug shaman.
While Claire battles with rejecting Dr. Ramdas’ psychological experiments, she must also defend herself against the other brainwashed disciples. They’ll do anything Dr. Ramdas’ says, including kill.
Can Claire escape the allure of everlasting beauty and Dr. Ramdas’ compound?
Welcome to The Retreat.
In a nutshell I'd say this film could be described as having commercial glossiness of Neon Demon but thematically closer to if the Manson Family settled in Coachella Valley. And if Charley Manson wanted to be a rockstar plastic surgeon instead of a rockstar.
The look and feel of the film will deceive as it won't look like a horror movie -- saturated, sunny, and with the smooth detached camera style reminiscent of David Fincher.
Going beyond the overall look and feel, this project deserves to be made because audiences crave character driven drama and suspense, no matter the outlet -- whether it’s a studio tentpole film or streaming service. The power dynamic between Claire and the charismatic leader, Dr. Ramdas, is one audiences will find chilling and deeply manipulative.
An audience will connect with this story not because of our charismatic leader, but because Claire, who is our window into this world, is is relatable. Dr. Ramdas exposes Claire's insecurities (something we all have) and he preys upon them.
This film is about the lengths we’ll go to feel comfortable in our own skin in a world where everything is designed to make us feel the opposite. Industries are built around our insecurities so that we’ll buy stuff - there's always someone there to sell the snake oil and capitalize off our self doubt. We are obsessed with beauty and wellness and our own self image. And we will go to amazing lengths to improve upon it. Even deeper than our self doubt and desire to look good is our need for love and acceptance, and Claire finds this is in Dr. Ramdas. It's how he pulls her in.
The script and the performances are the most important elements in filmmaking, and those are the great equalizer. No matter what the budget, these always matter the same. That’s why indie horror is a great place for a first time feature director like myself to cut my teeth. I can focus on these elements as well as using practical effects and locations (majority of the film is one house in the desert) to make a film for cheap that is just as compelling as a film exponentially more expensive.
I love classic horror. It’s one of the most effective genres for getting an emotional response out of an audience, and isn’t that why we watch movies? To feel something?