Thursday, October 4, 2012
Ever since I joined Netflix a few months ago, it has kept recommending this movie to me, chiming in with a "we think you will give this movie 5 stars!" hook. I studied the DVD cover and movie description and concluded that there was NO WAY that this movie I'd never heard of with this vague description of the premise would get five stars from me when I've been let down by movies I was SURE I would enjoy, so I finally gave it a watch yesterday (to get Netflix to quit poking me with a stick and telling me I need to watch it, mostly) and I have to tell you, it BLEW me away. It's easily the best movie I've checked out in this competition so far.
The movie is about a woman named Trish who is still grieving the disappearance of her husband seven years ago. He just disappeared one day, without a word, and hasn't been seen or heard from since. She still walks the neighborhood where they once lived together and she now lives alone, putting up "missing person" posters with his picture. She's pregnant, so there are a few signs that she's trying to move on with her life in some ways, but the sense of sadness and loss is still palpable. Her younger sister soon comes to stay with her and help her through the pregnancy and the other things going on in her life. see, she's about to appeal to the State to have her husband declared legally dead (a process which takes seven years to complete) and then move out of her old house and neighborhood. The younger sister, Callie, has just returned from a five-year round country trip where she finally entered rehab and took steps to conquer her drug addiction.
Both sisters are messed up but trying to pull their lives together. there are hints that their family life growing up was less than stellar, and after rehab Callie has turned to prayer and Trish has turned to meditation to try and center themselves and give their lives meaning. There's not much clue what really happened to Trish's husband David; what caused him to disappear. Trish gets visions of him, looking haggard and emaciated and ghostly, alternately reaching out and pleading or yelling angrily at her from the shadows in her home, but her therapist thinks these are manifestations of her guilt at having him declared dead. We, the audience, disagree of course, though it's not clear what's going on until Callie, on one of her morning jogs around the neighborhood encounters a man in a nearby subway tunnel, haggard and emaciated as David has appeared in Trish's "visions," rambling about some hidden danger holding him captive. Callie tries to help the man, bringing him food, but instead finds him gone and a bunch of random trinkets in the place where he lay (coins and keys and such).
It's all very creepy and mysterious, and the human drama is enough to compel us to watch even without the added supernatural elements. Trish's struggle to move on, her strained yet loving relationship with her sister, her hesitance to let a new man into her life, all of these things add to the sense of ambivalence and loss that permeates the movie. For once, this is a "slow build" that I don't mind watching unfold on film. "Slow build" is often code for "nothing happens in the first hour of our movie and we call it brilliant and artful when really it's tedious and boring to watch nothing happen onscreen when you could have sat and watched the wall of your apartment for an hour and gotten the same effect." That's not what's going on here. The movie uses that hour of exposition to really get us involved with these characters, so that when things get ugly, we will genuinely care about what happens to them.
I'm not going to spoil what's actually going on here, only I will tell you that this movie actually DOES eventually reveal what's behind the otherworldly events. It's not one of those movies that thinks it's brilliant because it runs for two hours and never tells us what the fuck is going on. I will also say that the movie is brilliant in that the director knows his limits here. He knows that he doesn't have a big budget, so he doesn't try to pull off special effects that would look hokey and silly, he simply keeps things to the shadows and uses little hints and brief flashes to terrify us with the suggestion of what is lurking in the shadows of the house (and thank you so much for that, movie, as I never sleep with the lights off ever again). The movie is a mixture of folklore, myth, legend, human drama, loss, and tragedy that tugged at my heartstrings and had me in tears (and screams) more than once, and I loved every minute.