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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Rob Savage
scr Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, Mark Heyman
prd Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Dan Cohen
with Sophie Thatcher, Chris Messina, Vivien Lyra Blair, Marin Ireland, LisaGay Hamilton, David Dastmalchian, Madison Hu, Mabel Tyler, Maddie Nichols, Leeann Ross, Han Soto, Adams Bellouis
release US/UK 2.Jun.23
23/US 20th Century 1h38
Is it streaming?
A rare horror movie that's genuinely freaky, this story is expanded out from a 50-year-old Stephen King short story and makes decent use of his distinct style of character building, which adds dramatic complexity to accompany the supernatural nastiness. Director Rob Savage effectively uses light, shadow, reflections and sound to create an uneasy vibe, properly constructing suspense even when it becomes rather clear where the story is heading.
Therapist Will (Messina) has recently lost his wife in a car accident and is working through grief with his daughters, teen Sadie (Thatcher) and the younger Sawyer (Blair). Then he meets zoned-out patient Lester (Dastmalchian), who describes the tragic deaths of his three children. And now both Sadie and Sawyer begin to have frightening nighttime encounters with a shadowy creature that's lurking in their closets. Sadie turns to a school friend (Wu) for help as she tracks down Lester's frightened wife (Ireland), seeking ways to stop this boogeyman. But its attacks only get more intense.
Sets are so inky that turning on a light barely makes a difference. Rooms are still deeply engulfed in shadow. Not only does this reflect the emotions of these wounded characters, but the darkness itself becomes the menace. Savage uses it effectively to send chills down the viewer's spine in scenes that play smartly with silence rather than a cliched scary-movie score. This allows even the subtlest shift of movement to create questions, and the special effects work is skilfully subtle, revealing the monster in sideways glances and momentary glimpses.
Because the central characters are grappling with death, the actors have layers to play with, which helps them subvert stereotypes. Thatcher has terrific presence as the single-minded Sadie, who intensely feels the loss of her mother, especially as she faces Carrie-esque high school mean girls. Blair has a wonderfully alert sensibility that immediately connects with the audience, so Sadie's bond with Sawyer feels especially strong. And Messina finds involving textures in this dubious dad.
Where all of this goes feels perhaps simplistic, only slightly reflecting King's willingness to put his protagonists in serious peril or to reveal villainous impulses in his heroes. So the deeper ideas in the story begin to evaporate as the film progresses. But several sequences build into something genuinely frightening without falling back on cheap tricks. Even the red herrings have some edge to them. And because the grisliness is threatening people we care about, the nastiness hits with real force.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2023 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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