Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fantasia 2020.09: The Block Island Sound

Got two more from Friday maybe coming later because I didn't get my screener requests in before folks apparently went home for the weekend, so maybe we'll call that 2020.09.5 or something.

I really liked this one, though it's kind of funny that I followed the links back and saw that I apparently liked the filmmakers' first feature eight years ago but it hasn't been hugely "sticky". I can't remember whether it played the Boston area or not, but I hope this one does; it's a solid little movie, and the filmmakers are somewhat local, enough that it's got a real New England feel to it even if a fair amount was shot in Los Angeles. This sort of New England beach town is my favorite sort of non-city place, and incidentally one of the best places to set a movie.

The Block Island Sound

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 29 August 2020 in Jay's Living Room (Fantasia Festival, Vimeo via Roku)

I don't know that anybody will be going to movies to just see whatever is playing next for a while, or if this will have the sort of distribution where it's an option, but I love the idea that someone might buy a ticket for The Block Island Sound, figuring it's some sort of rock and roll story, only to discover it's a horror movie, maybe about some sort of subsonic noise that drives men mad. It's none of that, but it is a pretty darn nifty little thriller that makes the most of what it's got.

It opens with a disoriented man (Neville Archambault) coming to on his boat while out to sea, and it turns out that Tom's spells, which only his son Harry (Chris Sheffield) knows about, aren't the only strange thing happening on and around Block Island; Harry's EPA scientist sister has been called out to the island to investigate an ongoing mass die-off of fish, with over nine tons having washed up on West Beach so far. She arrives with co-worker Paul (Ryan O'Flanagan) and daughter Emily (Matilda Lawler) in tow. Soon Tom disappears, and while investigating, Harry finds some sort of strange radio interference in the spot where his boat was found.

The McManus Brothers, who wrote and directed, had their last big-screen release eight years ago with Funeral Kings, and if this movie was nothing more than a story of a sometimes-contentious family dealing with the father's decay, it would be a worthy follow-up to that movie. Neville Archambault switches between friendly, cantankerous, and out of it in a way that would feel natural if there wasn't this other set of circumstances but also fits in nicely that way. Michaela McManus and Chris Sheffield make the relationship between Audry and Harry as something that's been worn kind of thin over time, and it adjusts in just the right way when Heidi Niedermeyer enters the picture as a second sister. The family is easy to relate to but also feels specific to this particular sort of community, where you're either stuck with each other or cut off, with the place overwhelmed by outsiders in the summer or a little too quiet during the off-season.

Full review at eFilmCritic

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