Whoo, that was a RIDE! As the lights dimmed, I intentionally knew nothing except for what the trailer had told. I knew director Drew Goddard’s work enough to know that it would be weird. I knew that the cast was fire. (I had the chance to see Cynthia Erivo live at a benefit concert during her The Color Purple days, so I was eager to have that voice star on the big screen.) I knew it looked like my cup of tea. That was all I knew.
I knew nothing.
The audience with which I watched the film may still be discussing it in the theatre. I had a dog to feed or I might well have joined in. This was easily the most-engaged audience I have seen in years. The jump scare got jumps. There was easy laughter. There were gasps. A couple of times, there were ovations. No one got out of a chair until the pretty credits ended. Most stayed after that. It was darn fun to watch, and this crowd appreciated that.
The plot - in its vague, spoiler-free glory - is that a bunch of troubled folks show up to a creepy, no-tell motel and then things go to hell. The film is not a horror film. It is more mystery/action than anything else. I have heard it called a thriller, and I don’t really agree. It is not scary or tense in the same way Cabin in the Woods or other thrillers are.
The tension in watching the film comes from the fact that the audience sees exactly what Goddard wants them to see exactly the way he wants at exactly the moment he wants them to see it. It is the surgical precision of the script and direction that keep audiences involved until the pieces start to come together. There are no tricks. It is just good narrative storytelling that makes great use of multiple perspectives and integrates Seamus McGarvey’s artful cinematography into a picture that really works.
The cast is stellar. We have established that I am Erivo fan, but I have to note that she does not fall victim to the American accent as many British actors do. She’s just incredible and I am excited for the film world to fall in love with her. Lewis Pullman is incredible as Miles, with a meaty character arc and the talent to dig in. The main ensemble fits together flawlessly and the supporting roles are solid, though the roles are largely very brief snippets.
I knew it would be weird and I knew it would be surprising. I did not know that the guy next to me would keep nearly leaping from his chair, yelling, “What the f….???”
It seems that he, too, knew nothing.