This ambitious, epic-length psycho-thriller feels like a one-man effort from director David Simpson, who also scripted (based on his own novel), takes a major role, edited and contributed the (impressive) music and sound design. It takes several big risks – not least its running time – and involves radical shifts of perspective between almost self-contained chapters. Simpson claims The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as an inspiration, but there are also a few echoes here of Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built – albeit with more four-episodes-over-a-week ITV thriller twists.
In the first chapter, nice British guy Jordan (Andrew Robert Wilson) is trying to end a relationship with the dangerously bipolar Bridget (Bridget Graham), precipitating a crisis. Then, we switch to Bridget, who adopts a slightly less scary hair colour, as she is advised by mental health care professionals and heads out to a remote house to work through her issues – she’s financially supported by her fed-up brother Tom (Simpson), but otherwise on her own, and struggling to distinguish reality from her own imaginings. This dreamlike, hallucinatory section of the film – which has beautiful location work and really highlights that soundscape – is its strongest stretch, but events then pivot and a whole other storyline emerges, eventually bringing in a terminally ill Sheriff (Moishe Teichman), a suspicious psychiatric social worker (Hayley Gray) and Bridget’s sister-in-law (Samin Saadat).
It feels at times as if the second half of the film is an extended powerpoint lecture on How to Be Evil by a sociopath – brilliantly acted, but ultimately wearing – who tries to talk their opponents to death well before deploying any actual violence. The long haul does get longer as the film moves into yet more complete changes of viewpoint and protagonist and location, but there’s a lot of unsettling stuff here – note the way a minor disagreement about a literary allusion (who’s chasing who in Frankenstein) very early on in the proceedings sets up the course of the drama two hours later, and indeed seems to propel the storyline into a possible Dangerous to Know Part 2.
You liked it more than I did, Kim.
Sorry to butt in, the director was so excited during his intro that I feel a bit bad not liking the film more and didn’t want to put anything negative on twitter. However, I do need to get this off my chest and here seemed as good place as any (long time listener/first time caller)
After an overly languid beginning that seemed to take an hour to give us 10 minutes worth of character and situation background, the film settles into a rhythm and gives us a twist on the ‘psychologically damaged and isolated young woman’ trope ending with an excellently executed sequence with the ‘find my phone’ function and a neat reveal.
Unfortunately, at this point the film switches gear and becomes subject to much rambling dialogue that essentially repeatedly makes the same point over and over again. It needed more variety and spark than the actors get to work with.
I was also distracted by the erratic editing during many of these dialogue scenes, sometimes allowing the scene to sit and other times sharply cutting between characters to no discernable artistic end. Something I noticed especially through the opening and middle.
An additional issue for me was committing a cardinal sin by keeping the films trump card, Bridget Graham (excellent throughout), literally hanging around for a significant period and focusing on another character, who’s mannered performance started to become distracting, probably because they were saying the same thing over and over again.
The rambling and repetitive nature of this lengthy sequence was exacerbated during my screening by the intrusive score muddying the actors lines. This is a problem across all of the lengthy dialogue scenes but was particularly noticeable during the middle section.
It all went on so long that I was exhausted by the time it ended and had no energy for the final third which started to feel like the interminable end of The Return Of The King.
Which is a shame as there are some interesting ideas there but, for me, it buckles under the weight of its ambition to take a novelistic approach to exploitation movie tropes.
As a viewer, the film would benefit from increasing the pace in the opening and middle sections, especially getting to the cabin much sooner and allowing the ‘what’s real and what’s not’ conceit some space to breathe before starting the twisty turny parts.
There’s a very good sub 2 hour film with a refreshed sound mix struggling to get out of a currently overextended and occasionally inaudible 183 minutes.
Yeah, I know, write yer own film if it’s that easy!