February 26, 2019 30 Miles from Nowhere (Movie Review)
“We may as well clear the air while we’re all still breathing it . . .” Emmy Award-winning Carrie Preston stars in the brand-new Thriller-Comedy 30 Miles from Nowhere, a character-driven stomp through the Wisconsin woods that arrives to both DVD and digital on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, thanks to 4 Digital Media and Raven Banner Entertainment.
A group of estranged college friends have gathered together, thirty miles from nowhere in the woods of Walworth County, Wisconsin, to pay their final respects to their friend Max (Andrew Rothenberg: Save the Last Dance 2001, Stranger Than Fiction 2006), a somewhat controversial research psychologist. Tragically, when a recent study went awry and he lost his funding and clout at the local university, Max took his own life. Worse yet, he left behind his wife Sylvia (Preston: True Blood series, The Good Wife series), a documentary filmmaker, and his mother Norma (Roslyn Alexander: Child’s Play 1988, The Unborn 2009), who suffers from dementia.
To show their support, the couple’s former college pals have come to this remote home to offer their condolences and to try and celebrate old times together. There’s Elaine (Seana Kofoed: The Audrey Hepburn Story TV movie 2000, Men in Trees series), who has spent the past decade slugging away at her job and steadily becoming an alcoholic; lawyer Larry (Rob Benedict: Waiting… 2005, Supernatural series), who has an eye for much younger women and wishes he could revisit his glory days; and Bess (Cathy Shim: Reno 911! series, Fameless series), who is enjoying life in the Connecticut ‘burbs. Saintly social worker Paul (William Smillie: The Dark Knight 2008, Chicago Fire series) is a bit of a klutz, while boisterous Jack (Postell Pringle: Soft Money 2005, Law & Order series) turns up with his 23-year-old girlfriend Amber (Marielle Scott: Phine Wine series, Lady Bird 2017), a model.
As the friends try to settle into the adorable A-frame guest house on Sylvia’s property, old tensions and personal controversies quickly arise. Though as a literal autumn storm brews outside, panic ensues indoors as the occupants begin to hear buzzing noises, cockroaches scamper about, both the sink and the shower are spraying blood — and is that someone watching them from a second-story balcony? With the situation devolving around them, the friends will have to overcome their past issues if they hope for their entire group to make it out of the woods alive.
Clocking in at 84-minutes, 30 Miles from Nowhere is a feature-length debut for talented director Caitlin Koller (Maid of Horror short 2013, Blood Sisters short 2017) and was written by actress Kofoed, who also stars as Elaine. It also features the acting talents of Rusty Schwimmer (The Perfect Storm 2000, The Belko Experiment 2016); Birgundi Baker (Empire series, Black Lightning series); Reggie Baker (The Lincoln Lawyer 2011, Empire series); and Robert Breuler (The Crucible 1996, Prison Break series).
Billed as a Thriller-Comedy, 30 Miles from Nowhere is a gentle blend of the Horror-Thriller and Comedy, a story that echoes notes of Ruth Ware’s 2015 novel In A Dark, Dark Wood and recent Horror-Thrillers such as Jamie Bernadette’s The 6th Friend. Let’s be blatantly honest: the idea of a group of friends rehashing their past at a cabin in the woods is hardly unique, but 30 Miles from Nowhere is packaged well enough to keep its viewers interested throughout its run-time. There’s a twist, sure, but you will see it coming almost from the first moments of the film, so much of this offering’s success is reliant upon its cast and their performances within their somewhat cliché roles.
In fact, it’s easy to see why Preston is an Emmy Award-winning actress, as her Sylvia is a delicious blend of a deranged Mr. Rogers and Scooby Doo’s Velma Dinkley. While the humor that she delivers is somewhat dry, and 30 Miles from Nowhere never toes the line into full-blown comedy or grade-B gooey Velveeta-ness, she is funny; delivering awkwardly placed, uncomfortably bleak, and perfectly-timed humorous anecdotes. While you should not expect deep belly laughs, you have to appreciate Preston’s deliciously off-kilter delivery that injects some zest into the story and makes her character truly unique.
While many recent films have claimed diversity, 30 Miles from Nowhere actually delivers on this promise with a well-rounded cast and a production team that includes nearly 50% women. Backing Preston’s sociopath next door antics are an impressive group of actors that includes the motley crew of Kofoed (Elaine), Benedict (Larry), Shim (Bess), Smillie (Paul), Pringle (Jack) and Scott (Amber). In the role of Jack, Pringle is a definite stand-out with his loud and boisterous arrival, injecting a more light-hearted mood whenever possible. Both Shim and Kofoed provide slightly more serious characters who are well-rounded and relatable, women struggling to find happiness on their very different life paths. Benedict’s Larry is necessarily cringe-worthy at times, a grown man still carrying on like a coed, while Smillie’s Paul is so kind-hearted as to be a bit of a doormat. As a whole and individually, their acting skills are wonderful, making them believable as a group of friends coming together years later in hopes of rekindling their old magic.
Set in Walworth County, Wisconsin, 30 Miles from Nowhere was actually filmed in Illinois. Along with some truly serene scenery — including some beautiful aerial shots that open the film — that is highlighted by the lovely cinematography of Ben McBurnett (The Hollow 2016, Demons 2017), the film’s excellent original score by Rene G. Boscio (The Flash series, Riverdale series) sets a mood. One that weaves around the on-screen action to set the tone for a film that is well-done despite its inherent flaws.
It’s hard to achieve something truly monumental with a largely banal screenplay in your hands, but 30 Miles from Nowhere takes its tropes and its clichés and surmounts its own pitfalls to be an enjoyable watch. It’s well-done and places its emphasis on its diverse characters, which goes a long way in earning forgiveness for its ‘cabin in the woods’ set-up. Steeped in psychology though never truly creepy or intense, 30 Miles from Nowhere is the perfect film for a rainy (or snowy) night. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give 30 Miles from Nowhere 3.5 of 5 stars.