Fantasia Dispatch: The Block Island Sound / The Dark and the Wicked / Minor Premise
The Block Island Sound
In the last five years, horror movies have often fallen into one of two traps: the heavy metaphor that sacrifices scares for symbolism, or the scream-fest that runs out of steam after rummaging through its bag of tricks in the first hour. The Block Island Sound avoids both, zig-zagging from the unexplainable to the unsettling to the unspeakable (and back). The McManus brothers pace the hell out of their 96 minutes, ratcheting up the confusion, awarding brief respites for air before plunging their characters and story back into the depths of the ocean. The Block Island Sound tackles grief without becoming consumed by it, provokes paranoia without succumbing to it, and offers thrills and chills along the way.
The Dark and the Wicked
The Dark and the Wicked knows exactly how to scare - it just can’t do much else. Bryan Bertino proved in The Strangers that he’s an expert with the tools of a horror filmmaker, and he doesn’t disappoint in his follow-up film. He uses slow pans and uncommon attention to what’s in the frame to build unease; combines quick close-ups with shifts in perspective to jar both character and viewer’s sense of reality; and knows how to be patient without being slow. But in The Dark and the Wicked, all that technical knowledge leads quickly to...nowhere. The film slowly reveals itself as a one-trick pony, as Bertino poses question after question in service of a growing sense of dread, yet ultimately finds himself unable to answer most of them.
Absent a few well-intentioned but muddled attempts to “explain” the science behind a fractured consciousness, Minor Premise succeeds in exploring a simple idea all the way to its chilling implications. What if multiple selves - an angry version, an intellectual version, a libido version, etc. - combined to create the whole person? And what if those individual archetypes split, taking over one body at regular intervals? The intrigue lies in the twisted premise, but Minor Premise thrives when it focuses on the emotional toll this can place on the self, Ethan, and the woman who’s trying to help him, his ex-girlfriend and current colleague, Alli. It helps that Sathya Sridharan and Paton Ashbrook turn in overwhelming performances, capturing the parallel deteriorations of a man going crazy and a woman who must interact with every version to save the whole self.