Saturday, February 21, 2015



Label: Revolver Entertainment
Region Code: 1 NTSC
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Stereo
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Michael Bartlett
Cast: Lindsey Haun, Blake Berris, RJ Mitte, Randy Schulman, Diane Dalton, Micah Nelson

I found myself home sick today with the what feels like plague, not capable of much other than vegging out in front of the TV on the couch wrapped in my favorite afghan blanket. A screener for this film arrived yesterday and was conveniently near the DVD player so I curled up with my blanket and watched it, which turned out to be a good decision, even in my delirium thus surreal haunter kept me rapt for the next two hours. Alan (Randy Schulman) and his wife Sarah (Diane Dalton) live in a very nice house in the Portland area where he is apparently a successful classical music critic... is there such a thing as a successful critic anymore, are people making a living reviewing film and music these days?

Sarah has just been released from an institution where she ended up after an unspecified family tragedy some months earlier. Arriving at home it's easy to see that she is still in a fragile state but Alan surprised her with a trip to Italy, which she is hesitant to accept, but she does agree to go with some prodding. 

Watching the house while they are abroad is an attractive young blond named Kelly (Lindsay Haun) and her younger brother Tim (RJ Mitte) who looks to be suffering from some form of mental illness of his own. As soon as Alan and Sarah are out of the house Kelly's boyfriend Jesse (Blake Harris) arrives and makes himself right at home. He's a bit of a scum bag, not a nice guy, and apparently quite a thief as Kelly warns him right away that he is not allowed to steal anything from the home. 

As the three settle into the home they become aware of a few strange happenings around the home, it house seems to be casting some kind of spell over them, particularly Jesse who begins to wear some of Alan's clothing and begins listening to classical music, in addition to wearing glasses and driving Alan's car around town. On one short jaunt to the store he meets an eight-year-old boy named Adam and on the spot decides he should take him home, the idea being that he can ransom the boy for profit, which does not sit well with Kelly.

With the arrival of young Adam the house has an even more profound effect on the inhabitants of the home all of whom begins to transform to one degree or another, there's some kind of transformative process happening but what it all means is not quite clear. As the strange events unfold at the home in Portland we have the story of Alan and Sarah unfolding in Italy. Some of the strange happenings have are eerie synchronicity to what's happening back at home in Portland as the couple start to argue and the cause of their emotional turmoil is revealed.

I loved the David Lynchian vibe throughout the film, a surreal haunter that reminded me at times of Lynch's BLUE VELVET and TWIN PEAKS, both feature idyllic locations with a dark underbelly. That actress Lindsey Haun bares a resemblance to Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) from TWIN PEAKS certainly didn't hurt either. There's a dream logic narrative at play throughout the film that might make it hard to embrace for some but having a predilection for odd narrative structure and my own cough syrup fueled convalescence I was transfixed, not a film that lays it all out on the first viewing, this is something that can be enjoyed during multiple viewings. There's some nice shot composition and design behind the film, an attractively shot low-budget feature with some thoughtfulness behind the camera which I can appreciate. 

There are a lot of cool visual motifs at play, including an abundance of symbolic red delicious apples, creepy yellow balloons and golf balls throughout this haunting tale of possession and transformation, there's a menace to what's happening but not the kind that inspired terror at any time, it's a tension filled eeriness that permeates this one, this is something quite different altogether. It also features some fine lensing from cinematographer Ken Kelch (Abel Ferarra's DRILLER KILLER, BAD LIEUTENANT) 

The principle cast is almost uniformly good from start to finish, with the exception of RJ Mitte as the disturbed younger brother. he came across odd and uneven throughout for me, which may have been an acting choice on his part being that he was portraying someone with a mental illness of some sort, but it drew attention to itself, and not in a good way. Haun and Berris do the lions share of the work here, particularly Berris who goes through the most significant transformation both visually and internally during the length of the film. 

Unfortunately there are absolutely no extras on the disc from Revolver Entertainment, this is a film I would have enjoyed hearing the writer/director Michael Bartlett discuss the making of and his inspirations, if just to unravel some of the mystery about it. Not a film for everyone, the odd narrative structure ensures that but for those who don't mind a little off kilter narrative this strange haunter is highly recommend.