A surprisingly effective effort.
Occasionally, a film can sort of creep up and surprise the hell out of you when you least expect it. Certainly, I was aware of it’s imminent release, however I hadn’t put much faith in first time director Todd Levin’s chances of adding anything new to the horror/thriller genre. This highly ambitious first attempt by the former music video maker, was very bold, but when you have as steady a hand as Levin clearly demonstrates, you can afford to take the leap, and put your money where your mouth is.
This low budget movie was penned by Extracted writer Gabriel Cowan, who has actually just finished directing his own movie 3 Nights in the desert. This may well be a writing and directing partnership we see again, because even if this film gains no critical success, of financial success I’m pretty certain and that’s almost as good a reason as any in Hollywood to make a movie. Director Levin has a nice style that, while his influences are there, they are far from easy to spot. I could see Hitchcock in small amounts but more strongly Ridley Scott, with protracted silences, put to great effect, adding greatly to the building of tension.
Each of the actors put in solid turns and I’ll always consider Ventimiglia’s performance one of the best I’ve seen, while he starred in the 2011 movie The Divide. His portrayal of a man being slowly pushed over the edge into complete madness was truly amazing and made me want to see more of him. Sarah Shahi was also on her game as she played Addie Dade, wife of Jonathan (Ventimiglia). Her work I haven’t seen a great deal of with last film being the bloodthirsty Bullet to the Head but I was more than a little impressed with the way she played the grieving mother. The lovely Sara Paxton plays Rachel, a woman having car trouble, who I’ve seen in several of her movies, with my favourite being the scary The Innkeepers, which saw her actually manage to stay dressed for the entire film. Sadly, she remains clothed in this movie too.
Addie and Jonathan have lost their child in an accident, and we see them struggle to maintain some kind of normal life, but not coping all that well. We are given small hints here and there but Levin showed skill which I thought beyond his capability, by allowing us to find things out for ourselves and making us work for it. The grieving couple’s evening is shattered by a strange young woman who, as I mentioned has had car trouble up the road and claims to have been followed by masked men. Jonathan, a well known writer, goes out with his faulty rifle to investigate but only finds the abandoned car with a police-like puncture strip stuck into the tyre. Rachel begins probing Addie about her dead child and all the while acting slightly off. Soon, the masked men appear and the pace quickens, and does not let up until the big surprise at the end, where the story wraps itself up quite nicely, in a manner that M. Night Shyamalan would be proud.
The story had a mildly supernatural element to it with small reminders here and there, like the flashes of people we almost see or the way things look when seen through the masks. The camera was a nice mix of handheld and static with handheld using a very low amount of movement, unlike what is normally seen when new directors go to it with a heavy hand, and what looks like a geriatric camera person with Parkinson’s. The pacing was brilliant and kept me riveted to the screen as Levin built up the oppressive feeling, adding tension. The masked men where generic but again the director succeeding in making them scary without the need of gallons of fake blood. Instead, a fantastic mix of visual acuity and sound (or lack of) brought this low budget production to life, proving he did indeed have something to add to the thriller/horror genre and letting us know he had arrived.
Personally, I thought this was a great film that should go down well with audiences because Static succeeded in being scary when others don’t even come close. The acting was exemplary and not once could I take my eyes off the screen for fear of missing anything of import. This uncostly little production just might be the best scary movie I’ve seen this year, and I’ve more than my fair share. I’m now looking forward to seeing what Todd Levin’s next project will be as I for one will be eagerly awaiting its release.