Aurora, Denver help compose DFF38 pick ‘Decay’

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Corpses aren’t weird; death is the inevitable, natural conclusion of the life cycle.

But keep a corpse inside a house? Things will definitely get weird.

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Rob Zabrecky in a scene from director Joseph Wartnerchaney’s “Decay,” one of the Colorado features at the 38th Denver Film Festival. Courtesy photo

That’s the surface-level concept of “Decay,” the first feature film by Pine native Joseph Wartnerchaney. The film, starring Possum Dixon frontman and magician Rob Zabrecky, is one of a handful of feature-length flicks shot in Colorado getting their shot on the big screen during the 38th Denver Film Festival.

Zabrecky, conservatively costumed and jarringly displaying signs of OCD, plays Jonathan: Technically he lives alone, but he’s constantly accompanied (in a “Psycho”-esque way) by the memories his mother’s scoldings. Also, a young woman ends up dead in his basement one day — and her body stays there, often joining him at the dinner table while not in a bathtub full of ice or in a makeshift coffin in the lower level.

Suffice it to say, Jonathan has some attachment issues.

Given this somewhat morbid subject matter — based on a true story from Detroit, Mich. — “Decay” gets tagged as one of DFF’s “late night showcase” screenings.

“Once somebody had told me about (the Detroit story), it just kinda kept sticking with me — what the environment would start to feel like, and what you would start doing with yourself mentally,” Wartnerchaney said. “I remember there was the time when my grandpa had passed, I had went to go see his body, and there was just this weird feeling over me — of there being this body in the room and I wasn’t alone, and I kept going back to that moment.”

Wartnerchaney started working on a script for it about a year before filming started in 2013.

“It was more just an exercise I’d done for myself, because I put out word I was looking for scripts, and a lot of them were more obvious than I wanted to be, and I certainly have an aesthetic I really like and embrace,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s anybody else’s.”

Local audience members will have no difficulty identifying “Decay” as a uniquely Colorado production. Proliferate aerial shots of local subdivisions, Lakeside Amusement Park and locations at Elitch Gardens place the film unmistakably a mile high. And one character’s reference to working as a “cliff diver at a theme restaurant” is a not-so-veiled reference to West Colfax Avenue’s most-famous restaurant.

As a finished product and an experience, Wartnerchaney says “Decay” is emblematic of the realities of filming an independent feature in Colorado. Much of the crew is either from the area or was “borrowed” from connections he’d made in working on TV commercials and in the theater world.

Wartnerchaney himself splits time now between New York (where he’s working on a Broadway show), Colorado and Los Angeles, Calif.

“I’m trying to be more centralized in Colorado more and more, but the work seems to be everywhere right now,” he said.

Producer Michael Haskins — a recognizable figure among Colorado film insiders for his various acting roles and behind-the-scenes efforts — said Wartnerchaney is one of the many creatives right in our backyard who “want to stay home,” and that he’s thankful for the Denver Film Society for the opportunity to spotlight local films.

“It gives them a venue to be seen, and I hope people can recognize the impact that that has,” Haskins said.

IF YOU GO

“Decay” screens at 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, and 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, at the Sie FilmCenter. Ticket and pass prices vary. Visit www.denverfilm.org for details.

THIS WEEK AT THE DENVER FILM FESTIVAL

Advance tickets for the acclaimed “Brooklyn” on Thursday night are already gone, so consider grabbing a cup of coffee and waiting for the 9 p.m. screening of migrant drama “Mediterranea” at the Sie FilmCenter.

Director Michael Moore’s “Where To Invade Next” gets the red carpet treatment at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for an 8 p.m. screening Friday, Nov. 6.

The gripping, based-on-a-true-story South Korean thriller “Sea Fog” plays at 6:45 p.m. Saturday and 8:30 p.m. Sunday at the Denver Pavilions.

Renowned Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s “Cemetery of Splendor” gets its first look from Denver audiences at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10.

The Denver festival has abounding affection for the works of Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, and his first English-language film (“Youth,” starring Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel) is already sold out for its first screening, but you can catch it at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11.