Tag Archives: psychological thrillers

Faults (2015)

14 Jun

“When you are awake you think more, but when you are tired you feel more,” explains Ansel to his sleep-deprived hostage, Claire. “So I’m forcing you to stay awake so you can feel what I am trying to say to you.” Ansel Roth (Leland Orser) is a former authority on cults, mind control, and brainwashing. He spends his days on the road, trying to sell his latest book at a series of dead-end hotel conventions. He eventually is confronted with two parents (Chris Ellis and Beth Grant) whose daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has ran away to join a mysterious cult group called Faults. Desperate to have their daughter back, they offer Ansel 20 grand if he can effectively de-brainwash their daughter from this newfound religion. Strapped for cash after a recent divorce, Ansel takes the job.

Faults starts out as a dark comedic piece brought on by Ansel’s quirky and awkward mannerisms. Surprisingly, the comedy then slowly gives way to a dark crime drama and then full-on psychological thriller. It’s a film that’s deeply felt and experienced rather than simply viewed and is sure to leave its subconscious mark in the brain long after the credits.

First time director Riley Stearns does a great job bringing out some killer performances from a pitch-perfect cast of actors. Most of the film revolves around our two leads trying to pry open each other’s brains, which triggers a psychological meltdown in the final act. It wouldn’t work so well without some exceptional acting, but fortunately the performances of Orser and Winstead are both knockouts.

The film does drag somewhere at the halfway point where the dialogue wears a bit thin, but for the most part Faults is a stimulating puzzle capable of leaving you laughing at one moment and horrified the next.

Bottom Line: Expertly mixing tone and genre, Faults is a darkly satisfying indie mindfuck sure to please those looking for something different.

 

Screenshot 2015-06-07 22.03.29

Rating: 8/10 

 

Film Recipe: Upstream Color (2013), + Sound Of My Voice (2011) + Coen Bros

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Magic Magic (2013)

12 Aug

Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Silva made waves at this years Sundance Film Festival with two superb films staring Michael Cera that were both filmed on-location in Chile. Micheal Cera hasn’t always been one of my favorite actors, but his performance in Magic Magic shows he can be more than the self-conscious teen nerd he has come to be known for (Superbad, Juno, Arrested Development).

Magic Magic is the story of an American girl named Alicia (played by the always lovely Juno Temple), who visits her cousin studying in Chile.  Because of an unexpected exam, her cousin Sarah (Emily Browning) is separated, leaving Alicia to journey with a group of strangers towards a vacation home on a mysterious island. Of course, things aren’t always what they appear to be, and what starts out as an innocent trip with some friends turns into a bizarre and unforgettable journey.

What really makes this film remarkable is the wonderful casting and chemistry that this group of friends share on-screen. Michael Cera is brilliant and adds a subtle but welcoming amount of comedic relief. Juno Temple is also fabulous and creates an intense mood in the film through her performance. Emily Browning, Catalina Moreno, and Augustin Silva make a great and believable supporting characters.

Some friendly advice: if you are the type who hates spoilers then DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILER, as it gives away far too much of the plot. If you aren’t into the weird, psychological sort of films, then this might not be your cup of tea, but I think Magic Magic is one of the year’s best for it’s unpredictability, wonderful cast, and intense thrilling script.

Rating: 8/10

Similar to: Black Swan, Repulsion, Sisters

Side Effects (2012)

12 Feb

Side Effects is the new psychological drama directed by legendary auteur Steven Soderbergh.  After covering a wealth of genres and cinematic styles, Soderbergh recently announced his retirement from film saying this would be his last theatrical release.

Thankfully he is leaving on a good note.

Side Effects follows the story of Emily Taylor (played by Rooney Mara), a NYC graphic designer whose husband Martin(Channing Tatum) has just recently came back from serving some jail time associated with insider trading.  Emily becomes increasingly depressed and starts seeing psychologist Dr. Banks (Jude Law) who prescribes her with a new anti-depressant that recently hit the market.

Soderbergh, mostly known for his Ocean’s Trilogy and the best-picture nominated Traffic, has recently excelled with a handful of successful films over the past three years. Haywire, Magic Mike, Contagion, and The Informant are a few that come to mind. Side Effects carefully mixes elements of Soderbergh’s past work (soft lighting, ensemble casting, and  noir-esc feel) with this ever-present feeling of impending doom.  You get the sense that things are going to end badly for the characters – and they do.

Overall, the film is an journey into the psyche of mental illness, depression, drug abuse and human nature – and it takes you places you never could have guessed. It’s unpredictable, suspenseful, thought-provoking and boldly acted; I loved this movie, and could not have asked for a better goodbye gift from such a talented director.

side-effects-girl-crying

8/10 stars 

Similar to: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Contagion, The Machinist