Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2017. Higher Content, Lila 9th Productions, Neighborhood Watch, Om Films, Ways & Means. Screenplay by Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski. Cinematography by Eli Born. Produced by Edward Parks, Richard Peete, Jett Steiger. Music by Ben Frost. Production Design by Jasmine Ballou Jones. Costume Design by Stephani Lewis. Film Editing by Ed Yonaitis. Independent Spirit Awards 2017.
Atmospheric and harsh, this low-key horror film will be a natural fit for lovers of cult cinema. Zack and Josh are best friends who join schoolmates Daryl and Charlie on an afternoon in the woods near their upstate New York town. They’ve brought along a Japanese sword taken from Josh’s basement, which belongs to his brother who is overseas, for the purpose of having fun slicing milk cartons. Horsing around leads to an argument that gets serious when one boy attacks another before a gory accident sets a whole new set of circumstances in motion that lead to madness and murder….which is really a bummer considering that Josh finally got the attention of the girl he likes. The lack of tongue-in-cheek humour is appreciated here, one feels confident that Kevin Phillips is well in touch with the adolescent insecurities of his characters despite the baroque circumstances he puts them through, but any style or humour is suppressed so hard that the film feels overwhelmed by its perpetual sense of dread. Setting it in the mid-nineties is not exploited as an opportunity for kitschy clothes or sets (it’s mostly there to avoid having smartphones involved in the plot) and all the performances are exceptionally well done, but don’t be surprised if the angsty flavour eventually starts to feel a bit one-note.