Jack and Dora, abandoned by their parents as babies, are desperate to find each other after years of adoption. Jack's young life has been spent with a sadistic family. Dora, whose life has ... See full summary »
Jack and Dora, abandoned by their parents as babies, are desperate to find each other after years of adoption. Jack's young life has been spent with a sadistic family. Dora, whose life has been somewhat better, has developed extra-sensory powers which tell her that Jack's in danger and drives her to search for him. Written by
This low-budget horror film from New Zealand is, for me, a textbook example of why I love the genre.
It has everything a quality horror movie needs, including the elements which big-budget and "typical American" horror all too often lack.
The film looks great, using the natural beauty of NZ alongside impressive cityscapes, but also showing us the very ordinary and (of course) the dark and ugly side of both the rural and urban environments.
The plot is straightforward but intelligently thought through and far from simple, resting on the characters and the tragic events in which they're embroiled.
There is violence and death, disturbing rather than gory, and an insidious tension which builds slowly and isn't allowed to dissipate until the very end.
The characters are sharply defined and individual, yet at the same time convincingly complex.
The dialogue is unpretty (sometimes even crude), but direct and often powerful - in many ways watching this was like discovering an unknown early Cronenberg flick, but in place of Cronenberg's cool intellectualism Garth Maxwell has crafted a highly emotional film which isn't afraid to take its viewers into uncomfortable territory.
Some of the performances might perhaps have been a little more fluid but Alexis Arquette (as the titular Jack) and especially Sarah Smuts-Kennedy as Dora are exceptionally honest in their portrayals of a damaged brother and sister. Mention must also be made of the blunt, persuasive presence of Bruno Lawrence, bringing to life a character who could easily have been badly mishandled.
Mainly, though, it's the ideas which make this shine. There are more surprises in this film than in the last dozen Hollywood horrors I watched... and thankfully they're the kind of surprised which make you think, not the kind which make you jump! There are very few FX beyond straight-up film techniques and a little fake blood, and that too is to the film's credit. This is a film about people whose lives have spiralled out of control and into the dark side, and while the paranormal elements are ever-present they're never the meat of the meal.
There are a few rough edges. As I mentioned in passing, the script has its clunky moments and not all the acting matches the quality of the standout roles. There were also some heavy-handed edits, and the sound design wasn't as accomplished as the visual aspects of the movie.
These are, however, minor quibbles, which didn't detract in the slightest from my enjoyment.
If you have an interest in the more sombre, conceptual side of the horror genre, this is an underrated modern classic, and comes highly recommended.
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