The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival began its programming on Thursday, June 7th and will run until the 18th both in person and virtually. With a couple of days of the festival under my belt, I’ve seen some pretty exceptional movies and some not-so-great ones.
The films that I‘ve chosen to discuss in this recap are some serious contenders of advocating for good mental health. With Somewhere Quiet, a traumatic event causes Jennifer Kim’s Meg to blur the lines of reality and hallucination. And in Bad Things, limits within friendships and relationships are seriously tested when a haunted hotel begins to interfere with their good time.
These two films are creative and important in their own rights but take a completely different approach in how they capture the horrors of psychological warfare… One could even say they make for a great double feature! Here are my thoughts on both films:
Somewhere Quiet | Director: Olivia West Lloyd
Official Synopsis: Meg (Jennifer Kim) is trying to readjust to normal life after recently being involved in a heinous abduction. To recenter herself, she takes a trip to the woods by the coast in Cape Cod with her husband Scott (Kentucker Audley) to stay at his wealthy family’s countryside compound. An excursion like this offers the kind of peace that Meg deserves to regain her sense of normalcy — but those plans get swiftly disrupted when Scott’s upper-class cousin Madeline (Marin Ireland) arrives unannounced.
Madeline’s insertion into their activities causes Meg’s recent traumatic memories to resurface through eerie hallucinations and nightmares. While Scott tries to attend to the emotionally fraught Meg, she begins to clash with Madeline’s aristocratic personality. The conflict brings out passive-aggressive behavior that makes Meg question her sanity while also coming to terms with the truth behind her kidnapping.
Review: Olivia West Lloyd directed and wrote the script for her feature directorial debut. In this psychologic horror/thriller, she encapsulates trauma and paranoia with sensitivity and care. But the beauty in how she demonstrates these feelings through Jennifer Kim’s Meg blurs the lines of insanity and poor mental health in a way that will discomfort audiences. However, I am willing to bet that audiences everywhere will be engrossed from beginning to end.
There’s a lot that happens throughout Somewhere Quiet. But without giving away spoilers, Lloyd’s directional choices are incredibly impactful. The way in which she weaves the themes of perception through her camera is great filmmaking. Additionally, how she connects that with gaslighting and trauma are enough to send audiences into a frenzy (in a good way). And though it tends to drag due to some redundancy (even for its short 98-minute runtime), it makes for a fascinating dissection of reality versus illusion.
With an unsettling and intense script as this one, it’s hard to imagine how one could get it to work on the big screen. But thanks to the cast that Lloyd put together for her debut, almost everything works. Jennifer Kim is simply sensational in the role. She puts on a show-stopping performance that is damn-near out of this world. If there are no other reasons to convince you, see Somewhere Quiet for her great performance.
Grounded in realism but supported with the kind of delightful entertainment the psychological thriller genre has to offer, Somewhere Quiet would be a great film to catch upon its release. The atmosphere built by Lloyd and company offers an intense watching experience capable of sending chills down your spine, keeping you engaged from beginning to end. Thanks to great performances throughout, every minute of this debut is compelling not matter how long it overstays its welcome.
Bad Things | Director: Stewart Thorndike
Official synopsis: For a group of friends in the Northeast, a weekend getaway at a snowy resort sounds like just what the doctor ordered. An opportunity to reconnect, relax, and recuperate among serene, snow-capped mountains and trees. But peace doesn’t last long as the ghosts of guests past and relationships long buried come to light. Soon enough, their trip transforms into a psychological tailspin and bloody nightmare, as both long-deceased guests and the space itself come to life, and the group turn on each other in a race to stay alive.
Review: I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Stewart Thorndike’s psychological horror feature is like one bad experiment that pulls in some of the best elements of its predecessors (and clear inspirations). However, it offers none of the quality.
I mean seriously… the entire film is a bite off of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but it doesn’t contain even a modicum of actual horror/scare, the brilliance, or discernment. That’s partly due to its slow pacing, and it takes a while to showcase any paranormal activity that the film promised early on. And by the time any does come around, I’m afraid viewers could already be checked out.
I am willing to forgive some of the lack of explanation (centered on what the hell is even going on in this movie) simply due to the fact that I still had fun with it. Plus, there’s a nice, underlying storyline about boundaries when it comes to friendships and relationships. Unfortunately, these themes never go as far as they should and die faster than they were probably intended, which does make for a frustrating watch.
As the story progresses, there are some redeeming qualities that are difficult to ignore. For example, the set design is superb (probably because it borrows from more popular films). Additionally, Gayle Rankin gives a convincingly terrifying performance as she tries to save her friends from a pending danger. Finally, the typical “horror elements” that we’d expect from a film like this finally begin to ramp up in its 3rd act. However, it may come a little too late for most viewers, as these moments require a heavy buy-in.
It’s hard for me to completely get behind Bad Things and recommend it to movie lovers, especially if you’re a fan of one of the best horror films of all time. But if you’re curious, there are some things to look forward to as mentioned. Just go in with low expectations, and the film may surprise you.