Tag Archives: Jessica Alexander

Into the Shallow

Into the Deep

by Isaiah Merritt

After an hour of holding it in, I began to scream at the screen. “You’re stupid. You’re stupid.”

The poor decision-making of the characters in Kate Cox’s thriller Into the Deep, written by David Beton, had finally taken its toll on me. 

Into the Deep, starring Ella-Rae Smith, Jessica Alexander, and Matthew Daddario, follows the budding romance of two strangers that become shipwrecked when a mysterious third party joins their affair. 

The premise of this slow-burn thriller has so much potential: an isolated location, strangers harboring potentially criminal secrets, and twisted motives. But the film as a whole fails to bring these delicious ingredients together to create a cohesive, entertaining work. 

Problems begin with the character development of the lead, Jess (Smith). Her amazingly promising backstory ties perfectly into the setting and action of the film. However, this backstory is never effectively delved into or utilized. 

Not every mystery in a narrative needs to be spelled out. Based on the way certain mysteries were presented here, it seems as though the filmmakers did not know how to use them as devices in the film.

While there were no major plot holes, except perhaps in the very last moment, many of the decisions each lead character makes are truly nonsensical. Additionally, the characters will inexplicably overlook or ignore things directly in their faces.

For example, if you pour a gallon of gasoline around someone who has a reasonable sense of smell, you are not going to need to point out to them that they are surrounded by gasoline. That might be fine once or twice, especially in a thriller like this, but not every 15 minutes. 

Into the Deep’s runtime hovers roughly around 90 minutes, which I was excited to see at first. However, this film could have been shortened easily by 20 minutes.

Not only was there far too much pointless exposition, the action did not commence until about an hour into the runtime. No real action, mystery, or discovery in a mystery-thriller for almost two-thirds of its runtime. 

The saddest part in all of this is that it is more than evident that the cast of this movie is uber talented. I cannot wait to see what each player does next, even Nikkita Chadha, who had a supporting role. 

Unfortunately, the wasted talent could not overcome the shallow characters and muddy vision of Into the Deep.

No Stones Allowed


by Rachel Willis

Hidden away in a sanctuary, a mother, her three daughters, and one son do their best to avoid a disease known as The Shred. Glasshouse is the kind of slow burn that drags you in gradually and inexorably. Co-writing with Emma Lungiswa De Wet, director Kelsey Egan knows how to pull the tension like thread through a wound.  

Curiosity killed the cat, but it seems Bee (Jessica Alexander) can’t help herself when a stranger stumbles upon the family. While each of the women cares for brother Gabe, who has been affected by The Shred, their mercy has its limits.

A few particularly gruesome scenes make you wonder who to be afraid of in this world.   

Egan’s world-building is richly detailed. The youngest girl sings a nursery rhyme with her older brother that centers around the new world. The mother holds a religious service with its own rites and rituals. Stories are told that suggest the world that once was.

The richness of the score and the beauty of the setting enhance the feeling of watching a fairy tale, but every so often something happens to remind us that this isn’t an idyllic other world. It’s a nightmare with no end.

After COVID, which has its cameo, The Shred has a false ring as a toxin. Egan isn’t interested in the realities of disease but in the unreliability of memory. When the world has been stripped away, whose memories are significant? Which ones are important? Does the truth matter anymore? 

Each character comes to life in the film, but Anja Taljaard’s turn as Evie is a standout. Adrienne Pearce as Mother also commands the screen whenever she appears. Newcomer Kitty Harris plays a large role in the beginning as Daisy but her presence shrinks as the film progresses, which is a shame since the youngest member of the cast does the best job at convincing us to accept this world for what it is.

With a film that spins so many possibilities, it’s nearly impossible to land on explanations that will satisfy everyone. Some things are better left to the imagination, but it can be hard to leave loose ends untied. The film falls victim to wanting to find some reason for its events. Those reasons will rivet some and disappoint others.

For a film like this, it’s best to enjoy the journey rather than the destination. 

Going Hungry

A Banquet

by Hope Madden

From its unsettling opening moments, Ruth Paxton’s A Banquet sets a tone that never eases. Holly’s (Sienna Guillory) life is certainly never the same.

The event that kicks off the film puts a generational horror in motion that flirts with the supernatural, bringing allegorical focus to the rippling effects of trauma in a family. As a caregiver, Holly likely blames herself for what happened, which makes it harder for her to focus properly on mothering her two teenage daughters, Isabelle (Ruby Stokes) and Betsey (Jessica Alexander).

At first blush, it seems Betsey has the worst of things. Having witnessed the trauma, she’s been particularly needy of her mother’s affection. Or is she hoping to prove to her mother that, indeed, Mom’s love is the cure she’d hoped it might be? Is Betsey trying to prove that to herself?

Or is there some larger force at play, as Betsey claims when she stops eating?

Justin Bull’s screenplay braids ideas associated with this theme of trauma, from anorexia to neglect to guilt and grief and isolation. Details unfold slowly, uncovering lived-in resentments and traumas that heighten tensions.

Paxon sets these ideas loose among an exquisite cast. A brittle Guillory carries the unforgiving emotional complexity scene to scene with appropriate weariness. Alexander brings an enigmatic quality to the role, while Stokes mixes heartbreak with anger to surprising effect.

The great Lindsay Duncan, whose grandmother character haunts the first act and delivers a bracing presence throughout the second, is magnificent.

Paxon’s camera ogles food, which is a trigger in the film, both a tool for caregiving and for Betsey’s rebellion. There’s so much to like about A Banquet — which is why it’s such a frustrating film to watch.

Paxon can’t decide where to take things. She’s filled the screen with exceptional performances, each character exploring fascinating, dark emotional corners. The filmmaker flirts early with body horror, diverts quickly to something more psychological, dips deeply into family drama and never lands on a tone.

This same lack of clarity or commitment begins with Bull’s script, which builds slowly to an energetic if fizzling climax. For all it has going for it, A Banquet answers none of the questions it asks and leaves you wanting.