Mini Reviews (August 2008)
Wind Chill, Juncture
Wind Chill (August 8/08)
With its simple premise and emphasis on character development, Wind Chill primarily comes off as a refreshingly adult horror effort that boasts a pair of phenomenal lead performances. The film stars Emily Blunt and Ashton Holmes as unnamed college students who agree to share a ride home for the holidays, with their trip - though initially rife with awkward conversation - eventually taking a perilous turn after the pair wind up caught in a snowbank. There's little doubt that Wind Chill's opening half hour or so possesses the feel of a slow-moving drama, as director Gregory Jacobs - working from Joe Gangemi and Steven Katz's screenplays - initially stresses the reticent relationship between the two central characters. Once the feuding couple's car hits that snowbank, however, the film morphs into a creepy little thriller that essentially plays out like a variation on Open Water - as the pair find themselves trapped within the perilous confines of their inoperative auto. Though the emphasis remains on Blunt and Holmes' banter, Jacobs does an effective job of slowly-but-surely establishing a sinister mood by punctuating the proceedings with increasingly eerie occurrences. The impressive degree to which the protagonists have been developed surely plays a significant role in Wind Chill's ultimate success, as one has - thanks to a glut of mindless horror fare - generally come to expect paper-thin characters from movies of this ilk. It's only as the film passes the one-hour mark that it starts to run out of steam, which would seem to indicate that the whole thing probably would've been better off within the confines of an Outer Limits or Twilight Zone or some such program. Still, Wind Chill is - more often than not - a very simple, very stripped down ghost story that's a fair degree better than the majority of its contemporary scary-movie brethren.
Juncture (August 16/08)
Though there's certainly no denying the strength of the film's downright irresistible premise, Juncture suffers from a pervadingly low-rent atmosphere that ultimately renders its few positive attributes moot. It's consequently worth noting that despite director James Seale's best efforts at infusing the proceedings with stylish visuals, the movie's microscopic budget couldn't possibly be more obvious - with star Kristine Blackport's distinctly underwhelming performance certainly not helping matters. Blackport plays Anna Carter, a high-powered business executive who spends her off hours tracking down and executing criminals that have, in her opinion, evaded justice. Screenwriter Robert Gosnell's decision to initially keep the viewer in the dark as to Anna's motives proves disastrous, as the character's increasingly inexplicable behavior will test the patience of even the most sedate viewer. And while Anna's modus operandi slowly but surely comes into focus as the story unfolds, Gosnell's inability to offer up a satisfactory explanation for what's driving the character to do what she does ensures that one is never entirely able to sympathize with her plight. Far more problematic, however, is the almost absurd degree to which the film has been padded out, as Seale offers up a series of overlong and flat-out unnecessary sequences that buff up the running time to an almost interminable 106 minutes (ie what exactly was the point of that dinner party scene?) The end result is a relentlessly uneven effort that surely would've worked a whole lot better as a short, although - to be fair - Seale's better-than-expected directorial choices ensure that Juncture does boast a handful genuinely enthralling moments.