(director/writer: Babak Anvari; screenwriter: based on the novella The Visible Truth by Nathan Ballingrud; cinematographer: Kit Fraser; editor: Chris Barwell; cast: Armie Hammer (Will), Dakota Johnson (Carrie), Zazie Beetz (Alicia), Karl Glusman (Jeffrey), Brad William Henke (Eric), Kerry Cahill (Rosie), Terence Rosemore (Duane Cross); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lucan Toh, Babak Anvari, Christopher Kopp; Annapurna Picture/Two & Two Pictures; 2019)
“It has some entertaining moments thanks to a zany Hammer performance.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A jump-scare spooky but inane horror pic that features a psychological meltdown. It’s directed and written by the British-Iranian Babak Anvari (“Under The Shadow”) with many missteps but with an eye for comedy. Babak based it on the novella The Visible Truth by Nathan Ballingrud. Armie Hammer plays Will, a slacker alcoholic bartender who picks up a lost cellphone, unlocks it, and discovers that his life has changed forever. In New Orlean’s Bourbon St., Will works nights in Rosie’s squalid bar, enjoying the company of the crowd. The dude has designs for the patron Alicia (Zazie Beetz), but she’s with her latest boyfriend (Karl Glusman). Despite that Will schemes how to nab her without his live-in girlfriend, Carrie (Dakota Johnson), catching on. When a student leaves a cell phone that night after a bar brawl, Will takes it home. Late at night he starts receiving disturbing messages from a tunnel seemingly inside him and a cursed book, and in the morning there’s a texted photo of a bloody pile of teeth. This concerns Carrie more than him. It seems as if Will is starting to lose his mind from receiving the haunted images. Thereby things turn into a psychological drama about the dangers of alcoholism. Johnson and Beetz have slight one-dimensional parts, and leave little impact onscreen. A number of awkward scenes transpire, with Will managing to go with the manipulative scares and make the best of the inexplicable screenplay. It has some entertaining moments thanks to a zany Hammer performance, and some satisfying final fright visuals. It worked best as a mood piece (such as Will experiencing flying cockroaches, shapes walking in front of the camera, heads appearing to bubble, and a tiny hand crawling out of a skull). But it’s done in by the stilted dialogue and being muddled. The film played at the Sundance Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 2/1/2019 GRADE: B- https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/