COLORBLIND (COLOURBLIND)(Canada 2022) **
Directed by Mostafa Keshvari
COLOURBLIND the film begins with these words on the screen heralding the use of technology to simulate colour blindness with its usage used quite a number of times during the film’s entirety. The words: “The film contains sequences of Colour Video Deficiency (CVD), mathematically devised by cloud scientists to accurately represent colour blindness. These scenes are basically black and white images of different brightness that represent different colours. Truth be told, it is the first time this film reviewer got to appreciate this disability.
The film features two main characters, both of whom are colour blind. The mother tells her son: "Colourblind is not the same as being blind, being colour blind means that we have better imagination."
The emotionally charged and compelling feature COLOURBLIND follows the story of Magdalene (Chantel Riley from FRANKIE DRAKE MYSTERIES and MYNONNA EARP) a coluorblind black artist, and her son Monet (after the French impressionist Monet) as they move into a new neighbourhood where they are challenged when they see the true colours of people. When their racist landlord Walton is forced to babysit Monet due to an unexpected emergency, he discovers a more colourful world through the child's black-and-white perspective.
Within the film’s initial twenty minutes, the audience sees two racist incidents. One is the treatment of a white cop as she interrogates Magdalen when she first settles into the new apartment. The cop is clearly racist is=n her dealings, the excuse given by her is” I am only doing my job.” The other is the confrontation when Magdalen first meets the racist white landlord. The landlord lets it be known that he had expected a white tent from the surname. His only excuse is that he claims other landlords are not so tolerant. After he learns that she is a black artist that has an exhibit at the local gallery that is now closed, he asked her also for last month’s rent, though this has only partly to do with Magdalene’s colour. What is shown here is systematic racism. The landlord is racist right from within but tries to cover it up and also believes that he is doing the right thing. These two incidents are sufficient to anger the audience and to get the film’s message across.
The magic question this film tries to answer is whether a supreme racist can change? The film, however, is not effective in its second half when it tries to show Walton’s conversion from racism to sympathetic human being. The audience is led to believe that the child is able to use his innocence to win over the big bad giant. Truth be told, credit should be given for the filmmakers for trying with good intent.
Besides racism the film covers other pressing issues like single motherhood, disability (in this case, a not so well-known one, thus being quite insightful) and mother-son relationship.
Gravitas Ventures releases COLOURBLIND on digital platforms on April 4, 2023.
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: HONOUR AMONG THIEVES (USA 2023) ****
Directed by Jonathan M. Goldstein and John Francis Daley
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, as everyone knows, was one of the most popular board games a few decades back. Dungeons & Dragons is a structured yet open-ended role-playing game. It is normally played indoors with the participants seated around a tabletop. Typically, one player takes on the role of Dungeon Master (DM) while the others each control a single character, representing an individual in a fictional setting. When working together as a group, the player characters (PCs) are often described as a "party" of adventurers, with each member often having their own area of specialty which contributes to the success of the whole. During the course of play, each player directs the actions of their character and their interactions with other characters in the game
If all these rules sound complicated, there is nothing to worry about as little to no knowledge of the game is necessary to enjoy the film. Of course if one is familiar with its theme, one can see references in the story and plot points (such as the maze) that are in the game.
Teens in particular would gather together endlessly and indulge for hours, if not days on the game. It is about time that a film be made on this popular game. Before one can shrug one's shoulders, judging how bad movies based on games can be, this latest game film is not half bad. It is a wise decision on the filmmakers’ part, to treat the movie as a fairytale fantasy, similar in vein to Rob Reiner’s highly successful fairy tale epic THE PRINCESS BRIDE. The film contains all the elements of a solid fairy tale including a magical troubled Kingdom, adventure, journeys, heroes and villains, the only thing missing being a king, queen and a princess. The film feels like a game because the film is playful, the adventures could go many ways and there are many puzzles like the maze and getting put of tight situations.
The fun starts when a charming thief, Edgin (Chris Pine in swashbuckling mode) and his female best friend, Holga (Michelle Rodriguez who does more fighting than him) escape from a very nasty prison. He wishes to reconcile with his daughter, Chloe. He bands together an unlikely group of thieves to undertake an epic heist to retrieve a lost relic ignorer to bring back to life his dead wife i.e. Chloe’s mother, but things go dangerously awry when they run afoul of the wrong people. Standing ninth way is the traitorous villain played by Hugh Grant who is exceptionally funny and coy at being bad. Pine is sufficiently dashing but equally matched by suave British trained Regé-Jean Page in the supporting role as Xenk.
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS: HONOUR AMONG THIEVES, a fun filled romp that both players and non-players of the game can enjoy opens in theatres March the 31st. Who does not enjoy a good old fashioned fairy tale?
THE FIRST STEP (USA 2021) ***1/2
Directed by Brandon Kramer
THE FIRST STEP is an angry but important documentary that needs to be made and seen. THE FIRST STEP is a doc on prison reform with the title referring to the importance of the first step that needs to be taken. Prison reform is so important for a variety of reasons. One is that it is a human rights issue. People serving time are also human beings. Secondly, prison reform affects everyone as everyone would have a relative or know a friend or acquaintance that has served time in jail.
In a divided America, Van Jones controversially works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America's addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities. The docosen in 2016 when Trump has just been elected President.
Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself.
While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. This is a losing battle if ever there was one. No side can ever be satisfied. And no side appears willing to compromise. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.
Bringing the topic of prison reform to home ofToronto, Toronto boasts a new $594 million super jail open in 2015 that contains fresh air room and flat screen TVs. But if one speaks to an inmate house in the new facility, he makes the valid complaint that there is no where inside that one gets to see the sun or the open sky. Inmates have the most valid says. In THE FIRST STEP, Van Jones spends time talking to inmates to hear their point of view.
It is also simpering to learn that Van Jones as a child lisps and could not speak properly. But he is taught that if one puts one’s shoe life into something, that one will succeed. The film also takes pains to emphasize the frustrations than Jones undergoes in his thankless task of prison reform - which is indeed inspiring.
THE FIRST STEP, a doc that is as informative as it is urgent is one that should be seen. It opens in North America with a VOD Release April 4 and on various Platforms: Amazon Prime, Vudu and more.
IN VIAGGIO: THE TRAVELS OF POPE FRANCIS (Italy 2022) ***½
Directed by Gianfranco Rosi
In the 9 years of his Pontificate, Pope Francis made 36 trips to 53 countries focusing on important issues and speaking out on poverty, the migration crisis, dignity, solidarity and the condemnation of war.
Pope Francis, now at the age of 86 and showing fragility in his movements in the doc, is the head of the Catholic Church, the bishop of Rome and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the first pope to be a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first pope from outside Europe since the 8th century papacy of Syrian pope Gregory III. Many, myself included, have the greatest respect for him as evident from the genuine kindness that radiates from his person wherever and whenever he speaks. In the doc, his most touching words are captured by director Rosi: “Society has forgotten how to weep The church is with you. The Pope is with you.” There are many segments where the camera is behind the head of Pope Francis as he stands on a moving truck waving to the crowds that line the streets. Pope Francis is inspirational too, in his speeches telling people not to be afraid to dream, even to dream for the unattainable.
As the Pope has travelled to over 53 countries, there is a whole lot of footage to select from for the film, in fact a total of 500 hours of material. Still what is seen in Rosi’s film are well selected bits that reveal many important moments.
The best is often kept to the last. The world headlining issues of abuse of native children and mass graves in residential schools and the Ukrainian War are kept to the end of Rosi’s doc. Pope Francis apologizes for the Catholic Church’s mismanagement of the residential schools. One can see sincerely in his apology on behalf of the Catholic Churches and it is indeed moving. In Malta, he is asked by a reporter the question: “What would you say to President Putin?” Pope Francis offers a clever, thoughtful and sensitive answer. Other footage of human suffering includes the prisons of Mexico, the refugee camps in Palestine and the typhoon
survivors in the Philippines.
The film’s message is subtly brought to the audience without the use of voiceover. Director Ross (he has made other humane films - on the plight of migrants in FIRE AT SEA or the suffering in the war torn Middle East in NOTTURNO) arranges his sequence of footage that emphasizes certain points. He ends many of the papal visits with the speeches of Pope Francis that summarize how he feels of the different situations. Often, only comfort and hope can be given.
The documentary premiered out of competition at the 2022 Venice Film Festival. The film is directed by renowned documentarian Gianfranco Rosi, who won the festival’s 2013 Golden Lion for Sacra Gra. It opens on March the 31st in Toronto (Hot Docs Cinema) and Vancouver (Vancity) while opening throughout the spring in other cities.
KILL BOKSOON (South Korea 2022) **
Written and Directed by Byeon Seonghyeon
KILL BOKSOON is best described as a poor man’s (or rather woman’s) version of hit-man martial-arts action flick series JOHN WICK, but with a little more story, which could be as good as it is bad.
At work, Gil Bok-soon (Joen Do-Yoen) is a renowned assassin. At home, she is a single mom to a teenage girl. Killing is easy. It is parenting that's the hard part. “If I were you mum, I would teach my kids how to act fairly, rather than how unfair the world is.” Wise words from daughter to mother when an investigation probe on how unfair practices are used to get children into the better schools, is heard on the television. Her daughter appears to have her life mission as annoying her mother, KILL BOKSOON is clearly a female dominated film with a female protagonist, a plot which involves a female coming up on top. Even the female protagonist has a daughter that meets her match.
Hired by the killing agency MK Ent., Gil Boksoon is both a killer with a 100% success rate and a mother of her teenage daughter, Jae-young. While Boksoon might be a seasoned assassin, she struggles with parenting. When it is about time to renew her contract with her agency, she makes up her mind to retire to repair the relationship with her daughter. While on her final assignment, before notifying the company of her decision regarding the contract, Boksoon discovers a secret about the mission and breaks the rule that killers must try to execute all assignments regardless of the circumstances. Now she becomes the target of her agency and the entire hitman industry.
The film is silly and pointless. But this can be said about many films that are excellent. The question is the entertainment factor. Can a silly and pointless film keep the audiences entertained for 2 hours and a quarter, which is the long running time of the film. Worse still, it is screening on Netflix which means the audience can pause the movie or walk away to catch a snack or so.
KILL BOKSOON, besides being too long and can be shortened and optimized, has a long list of unnecessary distracting segments that could have been totally eliminated. One is the opening sequence in which Boson fights both death with a Japanese Yakuza Samurai. It is a lengthy sequence that lasts close to 15 minutes, which can be shortened as it does not make a difference to the plot. The audience gets the point that the female Boksoon is the superior fighter but the distractions are a bit much as it keeps the audience guessing as to who is the film’s protagonist or where the films leading. This is one of the film’s constant flaws.
The fighting segments are exciting enough, although of course, not of the calibre of the John Wick franchise. But at least, credibility is maintained.
KILL BOKSOON streams on Netflix Saturday March the31st.
MURDER MYSTERY 2 (USA 2023) ***½
Directed by Jeremy Garelick
As the film opens, it is four years after solving their first murder mystery (their first MURDER MYSTERY film in 2019, which was quite funny, as this one is) and Nick and Audrey Spitz (Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston) are now full-time detectives struggling to get their private eye agency off the ground. It is just not doing well, as the intro tells the audience. Nick says: “Business is going bad. We need someone close to us to get killed.” They are then invited to celebrate the wedding of their friend the Maharaja (Adeel Akhtar) on his private island. But as they say, be careful what you wish for, for close enough, their best friend is kidnapped. So perhaps the title KIDNAP MYSTERY would have been a more appropriate title for the film.
But trouble follows the Spitzes again when the groom is kidnapped for ransom soon after the festivities begin — making each glamorous guest, family member, and the bride herself a suspect. MURDER MYSTERY 2 sends Nick and Audrey Spitz on a high-stakes case that finally gives them everything they’ve ever dreamed of: a shot at their detective agency finally becoming successful…and their long-awaited trip to Paris.
MURDER MYSTERY 2 is an Adam Sandler movie and Sandler is always funny. The comedy here is more sophisticated though there are still a few shit (or rather Shitz) and fart (after eating all the expensive cheese) jokes. The story is set on a paradise island (as stunning as in TICKET TO PARADISE) with a luxurious Indian wedding where the best looking saris in the world are worn by the ladies and the gents are clad in Indian white posh jackets. As the ransom of $70 million in bonds are to be paid and placed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the film also moves to the city of Paris, which adds to another exotic location. Being in Paris is Nora’s dream. Nick and Nora also ned to prove themselves worthy detectives. There is the running joke about them being Team Dufus.
As far as couple detectives go, like MR and MRS SMITH and Nick and Nora THIN MAN films, Sandler and Aniston make a culpable and adorable couple, bickering half the time while still supporting each other humorously. As far as whodunits go, there is a marvellous segment where the half dozen suspects all enter one by one into the couple's room to reveal a secret about another, each hiding somewhere in the vast room before another appears. The comedy is funny enough with many laugh-out-loud moments. The first joke for example is quite funny, a piece involving Nick having to listen to whale noises in order to fall asleep.
The car chase is replaced by a runaway van that Nora steers with the head of the dead driver. This is the film’s best sequence, being both funny and exciting.
The film features some strong performances from its supporting stars like Mark Strong, Mélanie Laurent, Jodie Turner-Smith, Kuhoo Verma, with John Kani, and Dany Boon.
MUDER MYSTERY 2 is a Netflix original comedy debuting on the streaming service on March the 31st.
PATHU THALA (India 2023) ***
Directed by Obeli N. Krishna
This new Indian feature, a new release at the TIFF Bell Lightbox that opens this week on the 31st of March is the typical overlong Indian feature that comes complete with Bollywood dance sequences, songs and crazy action. At the first screening at the Lightbox, the entire audience seems to be totally Indian, as the only person non-Indian appeared to be myself. As such, there are many observations in the film that only Indians can appreciate, judging from cheers at different parts of the movie, especially with the appearance of a new character portrayed by who is assumed to be a star.
PATHU THALA is the official Tamil remake of the Kannada film MUFTI (which means plain clothes). When director Obeli N Krishna, who also scripted the film was questioned during an interview with a regional YouTube channel on why Simbu’s film was titled ‘Pathu Thala’, the director simply shared that ‘Pathu Thala’ means Raavana from Ramayana, who is a villain but has a good heart.
The Tamil film has two protagonists, one of whom is this gangster who has a good heart. The cops are after him but he has donated lots to the poor and is immensely popular among them. It is odd that this character only appears after the 1 hour mark of the 2 hour and 52 minute film and becomes the main hero after, complete with his fighting all the bad guys at the film’s climax. Simbu plays the underground gangster. An undercover cop, the other protagonist (Gautham Karthik in the lead role as a police officer) has his safety compromised.
One thing that North American audiences are just getting used to, are overlong action films. JOHN WICK 4 ran over 2 and a half hours as did the latest James Bond flick NO TIME TO DIE. The DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS film opening this weekend also runs over two hours. PATHU THALA runs a hefty 152 minutes. The film could definitely be shortened due to its sprawling script in which often nothing happens. The story is also politically focused and shows the state of how the elections in India are held. As expected, corruption is present and the story is brought up to date with the subject of a virus developed in the lab for evil purposes. The film feels all over the place because of its inconsistency of pace. A lot of plot information is presented at the film’s start and not much, if any in the most part of the film. The film is confusing to follow but everything is finally revealed right at the end of the film, so that all finally makes sense. Despite the lengthy running time, there are enough spirited action set-pieces to keep boredom at hand.
The film contains two elaborate dance sequences, well choreographed and well performed. In addition, there is music from Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman (S\LUMDOG MILLIONAIRE). An additional bonus is the stunning landscapes of India - the coastline, rivers and roads that are seldom seen by North Americans on the screen.
PATHU THALA opens this week at the Bell Lightbox.
SPINNING GOLD (USA 2022) **
Directed by Timothy Scott Bogart
At the film’s start,. the film is quick to inform the audience that what transpires is based on a true story. It then goes on with a sequence in which record producer Neil Bogart (Jeremy Jordan) crashes a church’s Gospel service and sings for the rights of the song the congregation is singing. The song was “Oh Happy Day” that eventually sold 7 million records. After the sequence, Bogart confesses that he did get that song signed but it did not happen that way shown in the film in the church.
What do Donna Summer, Parliament, Gladys Knight, The Isley Brothers, The Village People, and Bill Withers all have in common with the rock band KISS? They all rose to their musical heights under the watchful ear of the music industry's most colourful and brilliant music producer, Neil Bogart, founder of Casablanca Records, the most successful independent record company of all time… Along with a ragtag team of young music lovers, Casablanca Records would rewrite history and change the music industry forever. Their mix of creative insanity, a total belief in each other and the music they were creating, shaped our culture and ultimately defined a generation. In a story so unbelievable that it can only be true, comes the motion picture event of the musical journey of Neil Bogart and how aim is to glamorize the independent record label. In the first 30 minutes, there are already 3 spirited segments - Bogart in 1967 singing ‘Oh Happy Day’ with the church congregation; a disastrous KISS presentation on stage in L.A. OF 1974 that goes awry and a so-called meeting with Warner Bros. Records.
Director Bogart’s film runs a very lengthy 2 hours and 17 minutes and it feels that long. The film contains more glamour than material and the film could easily be shortened. For example, the film’s introduction goes on to describe (though this part is very intriguing) the groove of a vinyl record. There is only one groove of 150 feet, the voiceover says but what is more important is the music that goes into the record. Moreover, the film praises its protagonist Neil Bogart to no end. (Bogart re-named himself after Humphrey Bogart. ) The reason is simple as the director is the subject’s son, with the film looking like a vanity project. The one thing going for the film is the delivery of the popular songs that were the hits of Bogart’s company, as performed by Gladys Knight and the KISS concert.
Despite the spirited and frequent dramatic set-pieces, Bogart's film drags on and one feels that a lot of hogwash could be eliminated. Neil Bogart was likely the same way in real life.
The film, one assumes, represents the true and crazy nature of the record industry. The bullying of the majors like Warner Records, as depicted in the film is definitely present and director Bogart makes it his task to show them get their embarrassing comeuppance.
SPINNING GOLD The film is confirmed to open on March 31 in: Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Kanata and Whitby
TETRIS (USA 2023) ***½
Directed by Jon S. Baird
TETRIS, the film tells the story of how one of the world's most popular video games, also called Tetris, found its way to players around the globe. Businessman Henk Rogers (Taron Egerton) and Tetris inventor Alexey Pajitnov (Nikita Efremov) join forces in the USSR, risking it all to bring Tetris to the masses.
A few things of history about video gaming should be noted prior to reading this review and watching the movie.
Tetris is a puzzle video game created by Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984. This is the time the film is set though the film moves across the United States, London and Moscow. Tetris has been published by several companies for multiple platforms, (PCs; handheld and arcade) most prominently during a dispute over the appropriation of the rights in the late 1980s. After a significant period of publication by Nintendo, the rights reverted to Pajitnov in 1996, who co-founded the Tetris Company with Henk Rogers to manage licensing.
The game is an old-fashioned one and looks old, prior to all the new present video games. It is basically a non-graphics video game popular in the past. In Tetris, players complete lines by moving differently shaped pieces (called tetrominoes), which descend onto the playing field. The completed lines disappear and grant the player points, and the player can proceed to fill the vacated spaces. The game ends when the uncleared lines reach the top of the playing field. The longer the player can delay this outcome, the higher their score will be. As endgames gained popularity at the time, multiplayer games were gaining in popularity. In multiplayer games, players must last longer than their opponents; in certain versions, players can inflict penalties on opponents by completing a significant number of lines. Some versions add variations on the rules, such as three-dimensional displays or a system for reserving pieces. Though the audience never sees a complete game played in the film, but only bits of it, the idea is sufficiently put across in the film.
TETRIS plays like a spy espionage film. It is thrilling and comes complete with a car chase along the streets of Moscow, quite well done in terms of continuity and especially sound of the screeching tires and a nil biting climactic scene where the villains are about to apprehend the heroes just before boarding their plane. The outcome is a bit cliched, not to be revealed in the review, but the suspense is still intact. One wonders how much of what is seen on screen have been made up of exaggerated as it all seems too crazy and wild to be true.
The film arrives with a whole lot of talent. Scots director Baird (FILTH) is an award winning director who has worked with heavyweights like Martin Scorseses and Danny Boyle. Writer Noah Pink is himself a film director who knows how to induce thrills and suspense in his script. Main actor Egerton has proven himself an apt actor, stirring as Elton John in the 2019 biopic ROCKETMAN.
The film has nice touches and unravels like a video game with an introduction such as Level 1, 1980 and ending with a winner announced as Henk Rogers, video game style.
TETRIS, while entertaining as a suspense thriller, also shows the business side of video games, especially the dirty stuff that go on behind the business deals and licensing.
TETRIS, an Apple original film, premieres globally on Apple TV+ on March 31, 2023
THE TUTOR (USA 2022) ***½
Directed by Jordan Ross
Written by Ryan King and directed by Jordan Ross, THE TUTOR has been crucified by critics and at the time of writing this review, the film had a 22% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Truth be told that if a film has got rave reviews, that high expectations would be anticipated and vice versa And again truth be told, THE TUTOR is not that bad a film. In fact it is sexy, creepy, stylish, occasionally smart and entertaining, aided by good solid performances. It is an odd film that appears not to follow rules which include a few sick scenes such as student and tutor uncomfortable obsessional relationships. But it is this weirdness and style that makes this film stand out. Whether for good or bad, the film tries and credit should be given to the director for that.
THE TUTOR is best described as a stylish nuanced thriller. It takes a while to figure out what is happening. The film’s first 10 minutes are stylish but quite confusing. Best to be patient and to see what comes on after.
An in-demand tutor for the East Coast monied elite, Ethan (Garrett Hedlund) lands a high-paying assignment ($2400 a day including lodging in a mansion) to instruct a billionaire’s son, Jackson (Noah Schnapp), at a remote New York waterfront estate. Almost immediately, Ethan realizes that his student’s interest in his life borders upon obsession. As tension grows, Jackson’s accusations threaten to expose Ethan’s perceived dark secrets to his girlfriend (Victoria Justice) and the authorities. As sentiment turns against Ethan, it is up to him, and only him, to unearth Jackson’s accusations and prove his innocence.
THE TUTOR is a male movie all the way with dialogue leaning on the positivity of the male. One key line has Ethan screaming at his pregnant girlfriend. thus getting the audience to take the male point of view. The line: “You clearly do not trust me.” The blame shifts from him to her. Ethan cannot explain to her how he ended up drugged or why a woman has been calling him and hanging up when she hears the girlfriend’s voice when she picks up the phone. Three strong male performances in the film from mostly underused actor Garrett Hedlund as Ethan, Jonny Weston as the odd boy Jackson and the odder cousin played by Noah Schnapp - all good-lookers.
There is one strong and creepy scene in the obsession segment when Jackson reveals his obsession, crying in his pyjamas and laying his head on Ethan’s lap. Though not nude and Jackson is wearing his pyjamas, the homo-erotic scene makes its point with some hints of where the obsession might lead. There is style and teasing in the well set-up dramatic piece.
The film turns a bit silly at the end becoming a slasher flick, but this an be forgivable as there is no other way the story could have gone.
THE TUTOR opened on the 24th of March and is playing in theatres.
THE UNHEARD (USA 2022) ***
Directed by Jeffrey A Brown
THE UNHEARD pits a deaf protagonist, a young damsel in distress against a slasher killer. Inflicting the victim/protagonist with a handicap heightens the tension and suspense. But inflicting deafness is not as effective as blindness, as the blind can use their blindness, often in a situation to their advantage. Audrey Hepburn’s blind victim used the darkness of the room to her advantage when stalked by killer Alan Arkin. But in deafness, the disability cannot be used to any advantage. Instead it is the opposite. When the hearing damaged victim is stalked in this film, she has to survive both the killer and the overbearing noise that she is suffering from.
After undergoing an experimental procedure to restore her damaged hearing that resulted from meningitis when she was younger, 20-year-old Chloe Grayden (Lachlan Watson, from the little heard CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA) begins to suffer from auditory hallucinations seemingly related to the mysterious disappearance of her mother. Chloe can hear strobing sounds akin to jarring electrical patterns on a television set.
It all begins when Chloe agrees to housesit her father’s house while undergoing her treatment. It is an old and eerie beachfront house with dodgy neighbours that include a weird boy, Joshua who seems to be watching her house. The hearing experiment appears to be going well when Chloe slowly regains her hearing. Her doctor is very pleased as Chloe is.
Thanks to both the script by Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen and the direction of Brown, the film teases the audience a number of times in terms of anticipating danger that is yet to come - possible danger for Chloe. When the doctor offers Chloe her email and phone number in case of trouble, one expects trouble for sure. The doctor also warns her of audible hallucinations and that the treatment may not be that smooth. When Chloe first reaches the house, she is also met by the strange boy, Joshua, which also creates some fear in Chloe. Suspense is also heightened during the sequences where she hallucinates. Chloe even confesses: "I think something's wrong with the procedure. I'm hearing things..." These sequences might be troubling to those with epilepsy with regards to strobing lights. Even for the average moviegoer, these sequences are a bit much to take in, which probably gives them the feel of what Chloe is going through.
Director Brown works well with light, sound and music to create a really creepy atmosphere of the beach front house. The film moves with a moderate pace with good suspense build-up.
The film, unfortunately falls apart during the last 20 minutes, when the film takes a 180 degree turn with the identity of the slasher killer suddenly revealed and Chloe suddenly realizing the fact and begins running from him. No solid reason is given for the killer to be the one who is revealed. Of course, the decoy to the audience, Josh appears to save Chloe and it does not take a genius to guess what will happen to him. The film takes the traditional route from here and again no prize in guessing whether Chloe escapes the clutch of the killer. The film is otherwise a watchable entertainer with a solid build-up to its climax.
THE UNHEARD streams on Shudder March the 31st.