84 min., 2012
Written by Max Landis
Directed by Josh Trank
My rating: ★★★★
How far would you go?
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Hello again, my pretties. Lady J has returned to praise or destroy another film. I knew the minute I finished this film I wanted to review it and I can’t really say why. I suppose it was the pure visceral display that drives the film that made me want to share it with you all. That being said, let’s get the introductions out of the way so we can get to the meat and potatoes. The most important character to this film is Andrew Detmer played by Dane DeHaan. He is relatively new to the silver screen and I don’t think any of the other projects he has been in would give you any clear idea of his acting ability in this movie, so I’m omitting them. Richard Detmer, Andrew’s father, is played by Michael Kelly whom you may remember from such films as Dawn of the Dead and… that’s about all. The other two teens are Matt Garrety as portrayed by Alex Russell and Steven Montgomery played by Michael B. Jordan (no, not the basketball player.)
The movie opens with Andrew setting up a camera aimed at a mirror hung on the back of a door. Through the door we hear an angry father yelling for Andrew to open up. Andrew refuses and accuses him of being drunk at 7:30 in the morning. The father violently hits the door once he realizes that he is being taped and that Andrew will not open the door. Just before he leaves for school, he stops in to say hello to his very ill mother. You can tell by the emotional catch in his voice that she means a lot to him and hates that he has to watch her dying like this. Andrew gets a ride with his cousin Matt and on their way to school Matt shares some teenaged goofiness. Then he gets “serious” and shares with him some philosophical stuff about how humans have to accept they are beings of pure will and therefore will never fulfill their emotional or physical desires. You could call this line in the movie foreshadowing for sure. Andrew concludes that this means we should just give up on life now and it is this heavy thought that hangs in the air as we witness the lonely, unpopular, and bully-filled existence that is his high school life. The third teen of the triad, Steven, makes his “appearance” in the form of his face being plastered all over the walls with posters meant to gain a vote for senior class president firmly establishing him as the uber popular one of the group. On the way home from school Matt tells Andrew about a party that evening that he should attend and Andrew makes it clear he has no desire to go. Matt convinces him and then suggests that he not bring the camera since it’s “weird,” but we know that won’t happen since Andrew has said the camera serves a purpose. Andrew is now at home and investigating his camera further when in marches his father who promptly smacks him so hard upside his head it put Chris Brown and Rihanna to shame then he picks him up from the chair and throws him to the floor, admonishing him to obey next time he is told to do something.
Now all the emotional dominoes are in place. We have Andrew, an awkward, abused, lonely, recluse of a teen. You get the feeling that from the way he handles the camera, it is his only real friend. He is living a rough life (not that being a teen is easy even in the best of situations,) and that is so important because it drives the rest of the movie. Next we have Matt, who is playful and serious in somewhat equal measures. It seems like he tries to take life seriously but not too much. His silly side actually got Andrew to laugh so the lightheartedness he brings is good counterbalance. And lastly, we have Steven. There isn’t much to say about him and I think I am a little disappointed they didn’t bother to take the time to further establish his story the way they did for the other two. I think his character suffers because of this lack of a real backstory. He comes across as a bit too happy-go-lucky, playboyishly Mr. Popular and once that stage is set we never really get to see if there might have been more to him than that. Then again, maybe that is the point.
Matt and Andrew arrive at the party with camera in tow of course and immediately Matt disappears into the crowd, leaving Andrew to his own devices. He wanders around and films for a while until a misunderstanding between him and some overprotective jerk threatens to break Andrew’s nose for allegedly filming his girlfriend dancing. Andrew ends up having a cup of beer splashed in his face and on the camera. He leaves the party and while sobbing softly off camera, gently wipes the beer off the lens. Steven finds him in this state and gets him to join him and Matt to explore a cave they found in the woods with the help of the camera light.
Down into the earth they go, and after some teenaged tomfoolery, things get flat the fuck out weird. This is due to the discovered presence of a wall of glowing crystal that contains creep crawly things and which also seems to be emanating a strange shrieking noise. The glow changes from blue to red, bloody noses and screaming for all three teens ensues, and then all goes black. This is about as high as the creep factor gets from this point on. There are no aliens, no government spy planes, no CIA demanding to know what those boys saw down yonder. In fact, after the incident in the cave, when the boys try to go back and investigate further a little later in the film there is nothing left but a big sinkhole that has been cordoned off by the sheriff for safety reasons only. I understand that it is important to keep the story going but seriously I don’t like that they fail to give any explanation at all for this random weirdness. I think it leaves a loose end that needles me for the rest of the film. I keep wondering wtf was that thing and they never explain. This is part of the reason the film gets a 3 and not a 4. I think in the world of good science fiction, loose ends leave things to the imagination. However, they have to make sense and be in line with the plot. This felt less like leaving an opening for imagination and more like a gaping hole they were too lazy to fill.
I am not going to give you all a super detailed play by play at this point because I really want you all to see it without me giving away too much of the plot. The most important part of this film is watching the awesome and terrible transformation that Andrew goes through as a result of the cave experience. All three are bestowed telekinetic powers and I also believe they all have a telepathic connection to each other as well. Andrew proves to be a virtuoso at using his abilities and rapidly becomes stronger than his two companions. Things are about fun and games for a while but then it start getting real nasty when Andrew gets power drunk. He has effectively been moved from bottom of the dung heap to as he calls it “apex predator.”
I truly believe the horror aspect of this film is watching what happens when a person is pushed too far. When a person has been kicked, abused, and spit upon one time too many. What would you do if you could get even? How much pain could you stand to have inflicted on you before you feel the inner monster take over and proceed to make the world burn for its sins? These are the questions that played through my mind as I watched this story unfold. It won’t scare you because that isn’t how this movie was made. There is no gore, zombies, axe murderers, or the like to satiate your blood thirst if that is what you seek. This is the story of the human monster with no masks or chainsaws. I enjoyed it. I truly hope that you will as well. Until next time, my lovelies. Be good… (or be bad but leave no witnesses…)Have You Read...?