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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Dave Franco
scr Dave Franco, Joe Swanberg
prd Dave Franco, Elizabeth Haggard, Teddy Schwarzman, Ben Stillman, Joe Swanberg, Christopher Storer
with Dan Stevens, Alison Brie, Sheila Vand, Jeremy Allen White, Toby Huss, Anthony Molinari, Connie Wellman
release US 24.Jul.20
Watch it now...
Beautifully shot in a spectacular location, this insidious thriller takes the time to establish its characters before throwing them into a nightmare. The clever script begins weaving in all kinds of themes right from the start, including tiny resentments, micro-transgressions and everyday prejudice. And the slow-burn pace is darkly involving. So when the story flips into outright horror, the filmmakers and cast make sure we're fully invested.
Planning a weekend getaway together, two couples rent a palatial seaside home with their respective partners: Charlie (Stevens) brings his wife Michelle (Brie), brother Josh (White) and his girlfriend Mina (Vand), who's also Charlie's work partner. As they casually hang out, party into the night and hike in the woods, they begin to feel that the creepy caretaker Taylor (Huss) might be watching them. Unsettled by this as well as deeper secrets, they begin to open up some unresolved tensions between them. And they're oblivious of the danger that's closing in.
A series of tiny twists adds a sense of unease, from the way Taylor rejected Mina's initial booking, clearly because of her ethnic-sounding name, to Josh and Mina illicitly bringing their adorable French bulldog. And the cliff-perched house perched adds some Hitchcockian echoes long before suspicions begin to arise, including the hint that Charlie and Mina are more than just work friends. Since the characters are so well-defined, where this goes is increasingly freaky, even if the smarter elements are abandoned for more traditional nastiness.
The actors are relaxed and genuine, bringing easy humour to their interaction while layering in all kinds of subtext, which accelerates with the addition of alcohol, drugs and a hot tub. Stevens has terrific charm as the alpha male who has complex connections with each of these people, mainly driven by guilt. Brie stirs a sense of weariness into the alert, confident Michelle; Vand brings a brittle confrontational defensiveness to the artistic Mina; and White is particularly strong as the insecure Josh.
Franco directs with a careful sense of perspective, patiently adding layers of meaning before things cut loose. And cinematographer Christian Sprenger makes the most of the settings, especially when the mist rolls in. As things escalate, the plot takes a few excessive turns, veering toward cliches. But the script approaches each encounter with a fresh perspective that pulls us in deeper, showing us a bigger picture than the characters see. All of which leads to some properly scary sequences that remind us how impossible it is to truly know anyone.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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