Tag Archives: low budget thrillers

Timing is Everything


by Hope Madden

Who was not delighted and surprised by David Bautista’s runaway comedic performance in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy?

And truth be told, his turn in the sequel was funnier still. Dave Bautista is comic gold!

Drama, on the other hand, is still just a tad outside his grasp.

Bautista stars with Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect) in Bushwick, a real-time(ish) survival adventure.

Lucy (Snow) brings a new beau home to her Brooklyn neighborhood Bushwick to meet the fam. Weirdly, there is not a soul in their subway station – aside from that screaming man who’s on fire. That’s extreme, even for New York.

Bombs, snipers and general mayhem greet the two as they try to leave the underground and head to Lucy’s grandma’s place. What is happening?

Directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott want to take a minute before laying it all out for you. It’s not a bad narrative decision – having the audience share in Lucy’s confusion. The directors make a handful of worthy choices, the most provocative and obvious of which is the sleight of hand used to make the film look and feel like one long take.

Beyond the visual trickery employed to minimize the noticeability of cuts, most scenes are delivered as if caught in one take. Actors stumble over lines, for instance, in much the same way humans might when conversing.

There’s even a chance it could have even worked to generate urgency and underscore the raw, wild ride of the adventure if the writing weren’t so bad and the actors had talent.

Snow could not be more irritating or less believable and Bautista, God help us, is asked to deliver an earnest, emotionally devastated monolog.

He’s awful, but he’s not alone. Everyone is. In fact, the most common comment in my notes from the film: This is so bad.

The one reason the film may stick out this weekend is its utterly amazing timing.

Bushwick has been invaded by a well-armed, organized militia of entitled racists.

Shut the F up.

The film won’t satisfy your blood lust, your peaceful dreams or your hope for a decent movie. But damn, its timing is eerie.


Let’s Get Quantumphysical


by Hope Madden

As a writer, James Ward Byrkit has made a name in family films (Rango, Pirates of the Caribbean), but he saved his savviest and most adult work for his debut as a director. Coherence is a lean, intimate SciFi mindbender.

Coherence combines a bit of Inception with the underseen dark comedy It’s a Disaster! A group of friends meets for a low maintenance dinner party, which turns out to be a little more fraught with drama than expected – and that’s before the comet flying overhead knocks out power.

Confused that this outage also affects their cell phones and internet,  the group decides to visit the one house on the block with power, only to find a dinner party for 8 shockingly familiar faces.

The nimble (mostly improvised) story remains fresh and surprisingly coherent, even as partygoers delve into theories, cross theories, and hair-brained theoretical musings on multiple realities. Byrkit allows us to grapple with our own disbelief by focusing on his befuddled guests’ incredulity as they attempt to puzzle out the reality (or realities?) of their situation.

And by keeping the focus close – zeroing in more and more on one guest’s evolving perception of events and potential actions – Byrkit develops a sense of intimacy that provides a solid foundation for all the astrophysical nuttiness.

As the dinner guests, the impressive cast portrays the kind of familiarity that breeds drama. Their pre-comet situation feels so familiar and honest that dread settles in even before the lights go out. From there, Byrkit ratchets up tensions with little more than his own ingenuity and the commitment of his cast.

The film is as economical as they come: limited sets, no real FX, no action sequences to speak of. It joins the likes of Under the Skin, Primer and Safety Not Guaranteed in the world impeccable no-frills SciFi.

It isn’t quite at that level, and yet, it’s among the more effective SciFi thrillers to come out this summer. Yes, Snowpiercer and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are more likely to wow you, but the internal logic, fascinating choices and chilling conclusion to Coherence will leave you with just as much to think about.