Three Thrillers from Anchor Bay
And Soon the Darkness (December 22/10)
Based on the 1970 British film of the same name, And Soon the Darkness details the chaos that ensues after two friends (Amber Heard's Stephanie and Odette Yustman's Ellie) are separated while on an Argentinean vacation - with the film subsequently following Stephanie's ongoing efforts at locating Ellie before night falls (after which point, a local helpfully informs her, Ellie will probably disappear forever). Director Marcos Efron, working from a script cowritten with Jennifer Derwingson, has infused And Soon the Darkness with a deliberate pace that does, at the outset, prevent the viewer from wholeheartedly embracing the material, and there's little doubt one's interest is initially held by the compelling performances and sporadic emphasis on suspenseful interludes (ie the stretch leading up to Ellie's abduction). The film's problems are exacerbated by Efron and Derwingson's reliance on elements of a decidedly routine nature, as the narrative generally unfolds in a manner that will seem less-than-surprising for fans of the horror genre (ie Stephanie attempts to elicit help from an indifferent police officer). It's just as clear, however, that the movie does improve once Stephanie accepts help from a mysterious fellow American (Karl Urban's Michael), with their perilous search, which leads to an impressively stark ghost town, ultimately carrying the proceedings through to its tense finale. The end result is a watchable thriller that's never quite able to transcend the familiarity of its premise, though it's worth noting that the movie often fares a whole lot better than its similarly-themed brethren (ie Turistas).
Inside Out (December 27/10)
Inside Out details the turmoil that unfolds within a seemingly idyllic suburban neighborhood after a mysterious psychiatrist (Eriq La Salle's Doctor Peoples) moves into a nearby house (in the middle of the night, no less), with the character's arrival provoking paranoia and eventually fear among many of the quirky residents (including Steven Weber's Norman, Kate Walsh's Tyne, and Nia Peeples' Maria). It's a relatively promising premise that's squandered right from the get-go by filmmaker David Ogden, as the writer/director has infused the proceedings with an oppressively off-kilter sensibility that's reflected in virtually all of the movie's various attributes (with the most obvious example of this Jamie Christopherson's almost astonishingly obnoxious score). There's subsequently little doubt that one's efforts at working up any interest in the characters' ongoing exploits fall completely and utterly flat, with the residents' frequently inexplicable behavior only compounding the film's pervasively inauthentic atmosphere (ie two seemingly heterosexual women are revealed as gay). By the time Weber's character, having ludicrously succumbed to total paranoia, shaves his head, Inside Out has concretely established itself as a misguided and misbegotten endeavor through and through - with the big revelation that closes the proceedings as underwhelming and pointless as everything leading up to it.
Not Forgotten (December 28/10)
The degree to which Not Forgotten fizzles out is ultimately rather disappointing, as the movie boasts a familiar yet promising opening half hour that's elevated by the strong performances and atmospheric visuals. The storyline follows mild-mannered banker Jack Bishop (Simon Baker) as he's forced to delve into New Mexico's seedy underbelly after his daughter (Chloe Moretz's Toby) is kidnapped, with the perilous situation exacerbated by a series of revelations involving Jack's mysterious (and surprisingly violent) past. Director Dror Soref generally does a nice job of establishing a vibe of overt creepiness, as the filmmaker perpetuates the movie's foreboding atmosphere by offering up a number of ominous elements (ie what's the deal with Toby's subtly sinister stepmother?) There's consequently little doubt that the film's exceedingly deliberate pace is initially not as problematic as one might've expected, yet it's just as clear that the movie begins to demonstrably run out of steam once it passes the one-hour mark - with the underwhelming vibe exacerbated by Soref's decision to place an increasingly prominent emphasis on sequences of a patience-testing and time-killing nature. Not Forgotten's eventual transformation into a thriller involving cults and devil worshippers is, as a result, nothing short of disastrous, with the narrative's tediousness preventing the viewer from working up any enthusiasm for the various twists that close the proceedings - which is a shame, really, given the inclusion of several undeniably compelling interludes within the film's latter half (ie Jack brutally works over a suspect with a broken beer bottle).