- Rough Cut Staff
The Block Island Sound Will Sweep You Away
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 deftly 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 follows Audry to the titular Block Island, just off the small southern coast of Rhode Island, where she unwillingly reunites with her family: her father Tom, a local fisherman, and her brother Harry, a townie who’s been spinning his wheels for nearly a decade. Something sinister lurks off the coast, and it’s been causing the rapid deterioration of Tom. Violent outbursts; memory lapses; blackouts; emotional instability.
It’s a fairly rote set-up for a low-budget horror indie, but the McManus brothers defy expectations with each new turn. They instill the same disorientation in their audience as they do in their characters - numerous sequences left me bewildered but intrigued, giving the movie a hold over me even when the action slows down. And when they lift their camera to the heavens for a blitzkrieg of a finale, I was left wholly unmoored.
Though it’s mostly Harry’s film, and Chris Sheffield turns in a strong performance, it’s Neville Archambault’s haunting, mesmerizing turn as Tom that will be left stirring in the back of my brain for months. Archambault understands the ache of mental disintegration, and taps into something relatable and pedestrian despite the extraordinary context. Jim Cummings also provides a killer, committed, albeit brief appearance as Harry’s conspiracy-prone high school buddy, Dale, clad in unfamiliar long hair but recognizable manic energy to anyone who has followed the budding filmmaker’s career.
The Block Island Sound tackles grief without becoming consumed by it, provokes paranoia without succumbing to it, and offers both thrills and chills along the way. The McManus brothers transcended their DIY brand of filmmaking to offer one of the scariest and most touching horror films of the year. Be sure to seek it out once it becomes available.