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Gone: An 'Is She Crazy, Is She Sane' Psychological Thriller
Jill (Seyfried) doesn’t have the best relationship with the police. After being kidnapped and thrown into a hole in the middle of the forest, which she luckily managed to escape from, the police refused to believe a word she said and stuck her in a mental institution. Fast forward a bit and she’s out of the loony bin, dealing with anxiety problems, carrying a gun and taking kickboxing lessons. She comes home one day from her waitressing job to find her sister gone. Convinced that the kidnapper came back for her and took Molly (Wickersham) instead, she tries to get the police to take her claims seriously, but to no avail. Left with no other choice, she takes to the streets piecing together the clues to find Molly and her kidnapper, before time runs out.
This thriller requires you to suspend your powers of logic for a while. While for the most part it tries to be more of a psychological thriller, the moments which require Jill to do some actual sleuthing are a long shot - to put it mildly. The clues she finds as to the kidnapper’s whereabouts are either absurdly simple or completely farfetched. The latter in particular are a real crime since the kidnapper keeps asserting that he kidnapped Molly to lure Jill. If his aim was truly to lure Jill, the clues he left her wouldn’t have been so discreet, random and easily overlooked.
Also, the characters are pretty shallow. The police officers are uniformly incompetent or lazy or a mixture of both. They stand around looking annoyed for the whole film. As for Jill, she’s rather strange. She fluctuates between two states: one in which she’s single-mindedly obsessed with saving her sister and the other in which she compulsively lies to everyone she meets. The first is logical and, based on her own history with the kidnapper and her relationship with Molly, highly understandable. The latter however is just plain odd. We’re never given a motive or reason for why she’s such a pathological liar and it seems rather out of character. Would somebody in her nerve-wracking situation have it in them to lie so well, or keep their numerous stories straight for that matter? We’re told that Jill stuck to her story for the entire time that she was locked up in hospital. Would somebody who wouldn’t tell a fib to get out of a mental hospital become a chronic liar?
In addition to being a liar, the film also keeps trying to push the possibility that Jill isn’t really all there in the head, though seeing as it’s Jill’s word against that of the useless police force, the idea never really registers the way it should in order to give the film a decent psychological bend and keep the viewers guessing.
Despite its inconsistencies, Gone manages to be a decent, light thriller until the ending which derails the film completely. It’s not innovative and the film is very basic despite the attempt to give it depth. However, it’s rather fast paced and Seyfried makes for a very watchable heroine, even if her character makes little sense and is unworthy of her talent.
Despite being another seemingly generic entry from the endless production at Blumhouse Production - see Paranormal Activity, Sinister, The Gallows - M. Night Shymalan’s The Visit is an oddly enjoyable and surprisingly affective found-footage horror.
The film follows the story of two siblings, fifteen-year-old Becca (DeJonge) and thirteen-year-old Tyler (Oxenbould), who decide to head out to rural Pennsylvania to spend a week with their estranged grandparents, Nana (Dunagan) and Pop Pop (McRobbie). The last time their mother, Paula (played by the always reliable Hahn), had seen her parents was fifteen years ago when she left home for good and now Becca - an aspiring filmmaker - is hoping to document their entire visit and shed some light on the longstanding separation.
Excited at the prospect of finally getting all of her questions answered, Becca and Tyler - who helps her to make sure that every angle and frame is fully covered - try their best to make the most out of their visit. However, something seems to be off with Nana and Pop Pop who, after the lights go out, begin to show a much darker side to their already peculiar personalities.
Creepy more than scary, The Visit marks the director’s lowest budgeted feature film to date and although it can’t hold a candle to his 1999 hit, The Sixth Sense, for example, it feels like Shymalan has once again found his footing after a series of duds - think The Last Airbender and After Earth.
Tapping into a familiar concept and turning it into a thoroughly frightening and an ominous experience is what makes The Visit shine. Subtle, simple and refreshingly straightforward, Shyamalan also manages to blend in a light dose of humor into the proceedings and, even though some of the scares can be seen from a mile away and the shaky-cam work does get a little disruptive, the overall result isn’t all that bad.
Delivering a couple of convincing performances, both DeJonge - as the intelligent and extremely grounded older sister - and Oxenbould as her wannabe-rapper younger brother are engaging as the victims-to-be, though Dunagan and McRobbie steal the show with their quietly eerie and wildly unpredictable representation of grandparents-gone-gaga.
Never taking itself too seriously, The Visit is a watchable and undemanding faux-documentary thriller that many have attached the word comedy too. There is definitely a lot to appreciate in this creepy little number, however, if you’re not a fan of this particular sub-genre, then you’re probably better off looking for your frights elsewhere.
Despite the familiarity in The Gift’s conventional, and somewhat predictable, stalker-thriller setup, Joel Edgerton – who writes, directs and stars as the lead – has managed to deliver a quiet and lingering psychological drama that isn’t all bad.
Tired of Chicago and its relentlessly cold weather, Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall) have decided to move to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles and make a fresh start. Purchasing a modern and uniquely designed home, Simon – a sales executive working for a computer security firm – soon begins his new corporate job, while Robyn – an interior-designer dealing with a case of mild depression – works from home and take care of their dog, Jangles.
During one of their shopping outings, the pair runs into Gordo – short for Gordon - (Edgerton); a socially awkward high-school classmate of Simon’s who wishes to reconnect with his old bud - and his wife - by showering them with gifts and unexpected house visits. Robyn is instantly intrigued by Gordo’s peculiar ways and wishes to get to know him better while, Simon is annoyed with his presence and wants nothing to do with him. Uncomfortable with the way Gordo is smothering Robyn with attention, Simon soon confronts him and asks him to leave them alone; however, Gordo is not willing to go away so easily.
The Gift marks the directorial debut for the Aussie actor, Joel Edgerton –previous screenwriting credits include 2008’s The Square and 2013’s Felony - who successfully handles the job at hand and delivers something that is both intriguing and beautiful to watch. Maintaining a sense of surprise and a hefty dose of stalker-induced tension, The Gift is far from an original piece of storytelling – Edgerton is happy to borrow from other similarly told thrillers – however, even though if the plot plays out as expected, there is still a certain element of surprise and allure to keep everyone engaged.
On the downside, however, the idea to incorporate the cheap – sometimes relatively effective – jump scares Blumhouse Production is known for, is what downgrades The Gift’s initial potential, while a couple of subplots are left totally unexplored. Luckily, the commitment from all three actors is what helps keep The Gift with its head above water at its with both Hall – as the somewhat lonely and insecure woman dealing with anxiety – and Edgerton – as the subtle and terrorising weirdo - coming out on top. Bateman, known for his deadpan humour, is given the opportunity to showcase his more dramatic side and for what it’s worth, he does so brilliantly.
Anchored by a few strong performances and an intriguing central story, The Gift is certainly not without a fault, but it’s got enough about it to leave it lingering in your mind after the credits roll.