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June 26, 2012

FMWL Indie Spotlight - Low

(2011, Dir. by Ross Shepherd.)

There's something about distance from society that just brings out the horror in people, isn't there?  You can set a horror movie in the middle of a city, sure, but is it really as scary as when the character realizes they have miles around them and no place to go?  You can have all the green hills in the world in front of you, but when there's an aggressor around you and you don't know which way is out...well, you might as well be trapped in a box or cell.

By following those ideas, Low is an exercise in tension that approaches the viewer with only a few resources.  One woman walks into the British countryside for her own reasons. She encounters one man who is wandering the same countryside for his own reasons.  The movie adds a few more characters and a couple other settings, but the focus of the film is directly on three things - the woman, the man, and the rolling green hills.  And - if you're following the definition strictly - none of these three things are innocent.

The less you know about Low's plot will be a definite benefit to the experience.  Though it runs under 70 minutes, the indie feature is packed full of twists - some blatant, some shocking - as we follow the path of Alice (Amy Comper), the scared woman, and Edward (David Keyes), the man who seems to hold her captive in the wide open countryside.
When you take one look at the man, you can tell that Edward is one of those seedy types of villains that only seem to come from England.  Keyes plays the role well, offsetting his delicate frame with bold and vicious explanations of what's going on with him. The words he speaks are direct and ominous, and they sell the man's deadly mindset better than any amount of violence could.  It's a cold performance that's gripping to watch, especially when we start to learn more about why Edward is the way he is.

On the other side of the coin is Alice, who is better prepared for a bullying male figure than Edward might think.  The character seems like the traditional damsel in distress early in the film, but a big reveal about what is going on in her life stands the film on end and makes us think twice about Alice and why she's here.  I won't go into the details of just what she endures through the film - again, the surprise of this film is crucial to its charm - but there was certainly a moment that had me fully shaken from my comfort zone and left me feeling deeply affected by the film's representation of human horror.
The third star of the film - and certainly the aspect of the film that drew me in to the story the most - is the stunning cinematography. I'm not a technophile by any means, so I can't tell you just what the cameras used were or how the picture was achieved, but I can say that the movie looks and sounds phenomenal. Colors pop off the screen just as they would in any big budget film, and the cameras do their best to make the settings look like landscapes out of a dream.  There's something terrifically haunting about a film that looks so beautiful yet contains some pretty unspeakable things, and Low gets plenty of benefit from how beautiful the film looks.

Considering how professional the film appears, it's a bit of a surprise to learn that director Ross Shepherd put the film together over a two week span in 2010, working with merely a three man crew.  I can't imagine the limitations that the filmmaker and company were dealing with, but the final product definitely overcomes most of the shortcomings.  My few complaints were tied to the plot, where a few of the developments seemed a little forced and the characters' motivations occasionally border on silly.
With a plot that keeps the viewer on their toes and some interesting characters, Low plays out like a story from The Twilight Zone.  There are a few leaps of faith to be made, but none are deal breakers.  When you add in how well the film is presented, Low seems like the kind of thriller that's just begging to be found.  If you're a fan of minimalist thrillers that keep the focus on the characters - some modern comparisons would be Vincenzo Natali's Cube or Stuart Hazeldine's Exam - Low is a film that you're going to want to watch out for.

If you want more information, don't hesitate to check out the film's official website, and make sure you check out the trailer below.


Cortez The Killer said...
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Anonymous said...

Looks fantastic. Can't wait to check it out. From the sounds of it, the soundtrack is pretty stellar too.