(director/writer: Richard Shepard; screenwriters: Nicole Snyder/Eric Charmelo; cinematographer: Vanja Cernjul; editor: David Dean; music: Paul Haslinger; cast: Allison Williams (Charlotte), Logan Browning (Elizabeth), Steven Weber (Anton), Alaina Huffman (Paloma), Molly Grace (Young Charlotte); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Bill Block, Stacey Reiss, Richard Shepard; Capstone/Netflix; 2018)
“A schlocky B-film horror thriller with a twisty plot.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A schlocky B-film horror thriller with a twisty plot that tries but fails to navigate between being a physical horror film, a psychological thriller, a sappho romance tale and a social issue mental health drama. Writer-director Richard Shepard (“The Matador”/”Dom Hemingway”), a so-so filmmaker of mostly TV stuff, takes it down a sinister path of Grand Guignol, but he doesn’t have the skill to get the shocker to overcome its grindhouse sleaze to mix with its high art concept or get the plot to be less confusing or the story to be more exciting despite all its blood curdling moments. Adding to the screenplay woes are co-writers Nicole Snyder and Eric Charmelo, who fail to make it look more than an uninspired bloodbath cheapie TV movie. Charlotte (Allison Williams from Get Out) is a promising prodigy cellist, who studied as a child at the prestigious Bachoff Academy of Music in Boston. But she quit school at 14 to care for her sick mom. Flashbacks reveal Charlotte might also have been taken aback with some mental issues. When mom dies Charlotte’s fully grown and returns to the academy for a visit and regrets leaving the school, as the opportunity she had to be a star in the world of classical music has been taken over by the academy’s latest star pupil Lizzie (Logan Browning). Charlotte contacts her former mentor at the academy Anton (Steven Weber) and his wife Paloma (Alaina Huffman), and they reunite in Shanghai. Also there for a concert is the prodigy Lizzie, who Anton introduces to her as a recent graduate of the academy. Though there’s a bitter feeling of jealousy and sexual tension between them, it seems inevitable they are heading for a dangerous relationship (reminding one of the more artful Daniel Arnofsky’ “Black Swan”). From here on the plot becomes too absurdly over-the-top, as it reaches for real craziness and a complete change in tone in its third act that I did not find satisfying. But without giving things away for those who don’t want spoilers, let me just say the scene that had the raw power to make it a curious watch is the frightening and tense bus journey the ladies take as they vacation in China together for the next two weeks. The deranged Charlotte brings along a cleaver that will be needed for the extreme violence that’s to come. What made this average horror film work was the haunting performances by the two leads (who outperformed the script), its stylish rewinding techniques and Vanja Cernjul’s gripping cinematography.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/