It's time to bring out a new feature on Midnight Cinephile, which I've decided to caller Screener Screamers! (Que cheesy spooky organ music).
As you may be able to guess, it is in Screener Screamers (There's that music again!) that I will review film screeners that are sent to me! Clever, eh?
I've never reviewed a feature film before it's release before and I'm going to be kinda feeling my way through this so bare with me. Obviously I'm going to steer clear of any spoilers while still trying to be the informative and hilariously charming fellow that you've come to know and love.
Tonight's Screamer: Infernal.
I'm guessing you probably didn't come here to learn about popular baby names, so we'll move on. We're pretty much dropped into the family when Imogene is eight years old. She's an odd child that has an unhealthy obsession with combing her hair. She has problems making friends and has a nasty habit of just wandering off and staring off into space. Nathan and Sophia fear that she may be autistic. So they bring her to a psychiatrist who has them start filming everything that happens in the house using a teddy bear with a nanny cam imbedded in it (which Imogene names Brandy "Because that's what Mommy drinks every night.") as well as a hand held camera that is used in the rest of their day to day activities.
Imogene's behavior gets stranger and the stress of the situation is clearly getting to both Nathan and Sophia as they start to fight more and more. It becomes evident that we are dealing with something more than just autism. There is something evil lurking and waiting to take hold. Nathan is the first to believe that what is happening may not have a natural explanation. It takes Sophia a bit longer to accept that there may be some otherworldly forces at work. Things continue to spiral downward towards the inevitable downbeat conclusion. As far as plot is concerned that's as far as I am going to go. I think that this film works best when you go in knowing as little as possible.
I was a bit concerned when I realized that it was going to be a found footage film that it was going to be a
Paranormal Activity clone. I am happy to report that it is not. As a matter of fact I found myself forgetting that it was supposed to be found footage several times, only to be reminded when a character would physically grab that camera and move it. It was quite refreshing to see that this wasn't a shaky-cam fest as are many similar flicks and that there are shots that are beautifully composed. There are some sequences and shots that had me rewinding my screener to confirm that I wasn't going insane and I really saw what I saw. Again, I do not want to spoil anything so I can't say anything further on the subject other than: Keep your eyes open!
The sound design also surprised me quite a bit once the film got going and paranormal elements took hold. Just as I was concerned with the filming style in the beginning of the film, I was also concerned with the sound design. The opening scenes are all set to rather generic sounding alternative rock tunes. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to be stuck listening to the same for most of the film. Much to my surprise and relief that was not the case. Once we're in the thick of it the tacky rock music is gone (save for one brief dance montage scene) and the aural soundscape is a bizarre and unsettling combination of low rumbles and a strange static. The sounds of dogs howling in the background during various scenes very effectively convey a sense of dread.
All in all I enjoyed the film quite a bit. The acting was a little uneven, but I've never let that stand in the way. One thing that kept driving me absolutely bonkers was the fact that I kept thinking I'd seen Andy Ostroff (the actor playing Nathan) somewhere before and I just couldn't place him. After the film ended I jumped on IMDb to see where I may know him from. Turns out he's from Massachusetts and not far from where I lived for many, many years......so who knows....maybe I saw him around somewhere.
So like I said, after I got past the 20 minute mark I really started to enjoy the film and by the end it had won me over. Don't let the found footage thing get in the way of you seeing this film. It's a bit of a slow burn, but the sense of pervasive dread permeates throughout. Infernal hits select theaters and VOD on April 10th.