September 4, 2018 Something (Movie Review)
Something stalks in the dead of night, lurking in the shadows and watching over your child as he sleeps. What is a protective, loving parent to do when the unnameable comes calling? So goes the tale of Something, which is currently working its way through the film festival circuit. Upcoming screenings include stops at the Central Florida Film Festival, Full Bloom Film Festival, Golden Door International Film Festival, as well as Sweden’s Västerås Film Festival. For those not able to attend one of these special screenings, fear not: there are plans for a limited theatrical run in the U.S. this November, with hopes of releasing to DVD and VOD sometime in December or early 2019.
New parents – Jane Rowen (House of Manson 2014, Dark Corridors short 2014) and Michael Gazin (Situational short 2016, My Crazy Ex series) – are struggling to adjust to life with a new baby, and their lack of quality sleep as well as the constant crying of their newborn has led to some serious tension between the couple. She is seeing things on the baby monitor and feels as though she’s being watched when inside their beautiful home. Initially, he believes that she is merely suffering from a standard case of the “baby blues,” an exhaustion-induced hyper-sensitivity that is wreaking havoc with her emotional and mental stability. Perhaps, he suggests, it is separation anxiety now that the baby is sleeping in the nursery and no longer at her side.
Laughing it off as best as they can, they move forward in their lives as he prepares for a business trip. That is when all hell seems to break loose: he discovers a sharp object lying beside the baby in the crib, the nursery door keeps locking by itself, and the nursery’s temperature seems to be fluctuating erratically. When the pair begin to see an ominous, masked figure inside their home, the situation will quickly escalate far beyond the point of no return.
Clocking in at 85 minutes in-length, Something was written and directed by Stephen Portland, who makes his impressive directorial debut with the film. The movie also stars Joel Clark Ackerman (Kill Season 2013, Ingobernable series) as the police officer; Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight 2008, Grey’s Anatomy series) as the coroner; Evan Carver (Pre-Production: The Webseries, Beverly Hills Ghost 2018) as the rookie cop; and Elise Zell (Losers series, Cast Me series) as the CSI.
Billed as a blend of Drama, Horror, and Mystery, Something reads more like a Supernatural Thriller on its initial surface value. Which is a little difficult to explain without giving too much away, but consider the central thesis of its plot to be fairly simple: Is this couple suffering from a case of folie à deux (shared madness, not the Fall Out Boy album) or are they the tragic victims of a stalking or, worse yet, is there a paranormal presence lurking inside this home? The beauty of Something is that, while all the hints are there to lead you in one intended direction, your little heart is free to explore all available avenues of explanation. And it will: long after the end credits roll, your mind will still be flipping this story on all sides to consider the pieces you might have missed. (Hint: just remember the repeated mentions of the principle of Occam’s Razor, which states that the simplest solution to a problem is often the right one.)
In order to craft a film that toys with multiple possible resolutions, Something enlists a minimalist cast and, therefore, the bulk of the production rests upon the shoulders of its lead actors, Rowen and Gazin. Truth be told, they are a mixed bag of skills, with Gazin often times taking the lead in believability, relatability, and evoking empathy in his viewers. Rowen struggles in spots and can, in certain moments, feel a bit scripted and forced. However, in her defense, this is not a fast-moving tale with a multitude of material to work with: no, Something is a slow-moving, repetitive story that cycles back onto itself to try and make its viewers believe that they too are going insane. So, while Rowen has moments of stiffness, she generally does an excellent job with the material she is given, clearly portraying the exhaustion and emotional fragility of new motherhood. Gazin, in some ways, is given a bit more material to work with, as he is initially conflicted and disbelieving, but eventually finds himself sharing in his wife’s hysteria.
The fact that Rowen and Gazin’s acting is a mixed bag is merely a reflection of the entire production, which is itself a bit of a conundrum: Something is visually appealing and uniquely-crafted, but slow and ultimately unsatisfying. Its tale places a spin on the growing subgenre of pregnancy and child-related Supernatural Thriller/Horror films, marking it as a movie that can easily be placed alongside other recent entries into the field such as The Lullaby, Inside, Still/Born, The Unseen, etc. The twist here, however, is that while you can walk away believing whatever you like, the heavily-implied outcome to this story is entirely disappointing and makes the slow-moving vehicle that delivers this conclusion feel kind of like a gigantic upset.
Ultimately, Something is watchable, if somewhat enjoyable, though its conclusion may feel like a bit of a slap-in-the-face, if you will. Points must be given for its Raymond Carver-esque, nameless storytelling approach, which adds a dash of sophistication to its script, though this alone can neither make nor break the overall production. Overall, Something is an intriguing offering, one that lays the foundation for an excellent career for Writer/Director Portland. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Something 3.5 of 5 stars.