Tag Archives: John Gallagher Jr.

In This Housing Market?

Abandoned

by Hope Madden

Competently made and utterly unremarkable, Spencer Squire’s Abandoned still somehow managed to draw a top-notch cast. Huh.

Emma Roberts is Sara, a new mom battling post-partum depression. Her doting husband Alex (John Gallagher Jr.) thinks a change of scenery will help. Naturally, they purchase a beautiful, rustic farmhouse that was once the site of a massive family murder.

Will there be a creepy neighbor with intel on the crime? There will indeed, blessedly in the form of the always amazing Michael Shannon. Why he’s in this film is anybody’s guess (until you dig deeper into the credits), but he’s a welcome, fascinating presence.

Sara spends lonesome days alone with her baby while veterinarian Alex tends to the surrounding farms’ livestock. These follow sleepless nights, where creaking, stomping, and the laughter of children keep her awake.

Writers Erik Patterson and Jessica Scott conflate psychosis, post-partum depression and paranoia with a reasonable suspicion of a haunting. Is Sara overwrought from depression? Is the slain of the house trying to terrorize her? Is she actually just dangerously unstable from way back?

Options aplenty, none of them explored or particularly well established.

It’s a lot of weight on Roberts, who’s proven in films like The Blackcoat’s Daughter that an unbalanced horror heroine is well within her wheelhouse. Here she just seems lost.

Gallagher is wasted in yet another Good Guy Jim (Newsroom reference) role. But the supporting cast is excellent, beginning with Shannon. Kate Arrington (Shannon’s real-life wife who was so stellar in Knives and Skin) is perfection as the eager but judgy real estate agent.

Paul Schneider appears in an intriguing if underdeveloped role, one that appears to throw the entire film in a fascinating new direction. Sadly, Abandoned quickly reestablishes itself as the predictably middling supernatural thriller you knew it was from its opening minutes.

Waiting On a Friend

Come Play

by George Wolf

In a vacuum, Come Play is a fairly smart and mildly jump-scary slice of PG-13 horror for your Halloween weekend. It even finds an unexpected and satisfying way out of the monstrous concept that it fosters.

But the feature debut for writer/director Jacob Chase has trouble escaping the shadow of two other films. One is Larry, Chase’s own short from 2017, and the other is the modern horror classic that clearly inspired him.

Larry is the star of Misunderstood Monsters, a story app that Oliver, a non-verbal autistic boy (Azhy Robertson from Marriage Story), has stumbled onto. Larry says he just wants a friend, but he’s too scary, and Oliver resists.

But Larry just won’t be denied. And it isn’t long before Oliver’s estranged parents (Gillian Jacobs and John Gallagher, Jr.) have to admit they really are being terrorized by an entity let in through the screens on their many devices.

A monster from a troubled child’s story manifests itself in a home unsettled by emotional turmoil. Though the metaphors in Come Play are geared more toward multiplex than art house, the blueprint is plenty familiar.

Chase does prove himself to be an able technician, exhibiting some nifty camerawork and a fine sense of visual creepiness. But the road to his effective finale drags from a lack of solid scares and the feeling of filler that can plague a short film stepping up in class.

There are some valid ideas at work here. They’re not terribly urgent or original, but Come Play isn’t pretending they are. It’s a film with little interest in overthinking, for horror fans not interested in films that do.

Under the Sea

Underwater

by Hope Madden

Kristin Stewart has been stretching.

Yes, she will probably forever be first known as that girl from Twilight, unfortunately. But, in the same way her ex-vampire lover Robert Pattinson has relentlessly carved a stronger impression via challenging independent film roles, Stewart has been honing her craft and developing a reputation as a solid talent via varying roles in small budget films.

The few dozen or so of us who saw her versatility over the last few years in Personal Shopper, JT LeRoy, Lizzie, Certain Women, Still Alice and Clouds of Sils Maria no longer think first of Twilight’s Bella Swan.

But Ellen Ripley?

William Eubank’s deep sea horror Underwater sees Stewart as Nora, a no-nonsense, quick thinking, fast acting survivor—the kind who just might keep the remaining crew alive as they try to make their way from an irreversibly damaged deep sea drill rig to a nearby vessel that might have pods to float them to safety.

But what caused the damage in the first place and what is making that noise?

Eubank has assembled a surprisingly solid cast for his “Alien Under the Sea” flick. Joining Stewart as the rig’s humbly heroic captain is the always excellent Vincent Cassel, while John Gallagher Jr. plays the latest in his long line of effortlessly likeable good guys, Smith. Chubby comic relief is delivered by T.J. Miller.

If that sounds like your basic set of recognizable stereotypes assembled to be picked off one by one, you’ve detected the first major problem with Eubank’s film: a breathtaking lack of originality.

The script, penned by Brian Duffield (The Babysitter) and Adam Cozad (The Legend of Tarzan), offers nothing in the way of novelty and much of the dialog is stilted, and Nora’s third act reveal of the emotional damage she must overcome is false and forced.

Luckily, Eubanks somehow convinced a bunch of genuinely talented actors to deliver these lines, so they mainly come off fine. And while the director frustratingly and consistently undercuts the claustrophobic tension he’s begun building, his monsters are pretty cool looking.

Stewart gets to try on the action hero role, and she’s not too bad. For a 95 minute sea monster movie, neither is Underwater. It’s not too good, either, but at least there are no sparkly vampires.