Starring Anna Kendrick, Tania Raymonde, Chuck Carter, Olivia Dawn York, Paul Wesley, Jon Gries, Kinna McInroe, Jeffrey Daniel Phillips, Suzanne Lang, Joshua Swanson, Shannon Holt and Eddie Martinez.
Screenplay by Nathan Hope.
Directed by Nathan Hope.
Distributed by E1 Entertainment. 106 minutes. Rated R.
When you review films for a while, you quickly get jaded towards straight-to-video horror movies, with their no-name casts, cheesy, clichéd plots and gratuitous gore.
Therefore, it is always a cause for celebration when one of these movies turns out to be actually very good.
Elsewhere is not just significantly better than most straight-to-vid horror fests, it is also better than most horror films which get a wide theatrical release.
Actually, even calling it a horror film is a bit of a misnomer by modern standards – no one is killed on camera, the violence is mostly not particularly graphic and the only monsters are of the human variety. Elsewhere is more like a very suspenseful internet-era thriller.
Even though they are stylistically very different and come out of different eras, Elsewhere sort of reminds me of another out-of-nowhere sleeper horror from the 80s called The Stepfather. Both films tread on familiar ground for fans of the genre, but they do it with a style and cleverness that belies their B-movie roots. Both realize that the greatest evil is often committed in the most innocuous, safest places.
The movie is anchored by a tough, smart lead performance by Anna Kendrick, who is currently best known for a small part in Twilight, but also has just been tapped to co-star with George Clooney in Up in the Air. Kendrick plays Sarah – a small town nice girl who is convinced that her best friend’s disappearance is not just a case of running away.
That friend is Jillian (Tania Raymonde), a hell-raising bad girl who has wanted to get out of town since childhood. Jillian is sexy and knows it and uses it to get a rise out of guys. Recently she has become involved on a social networking site – posting sexy pictures and flirting with literally hundreds of guys online – including a local policeman, her pissed off jock ex-boyfriend and a nerdy guy on the chess team.
One night Jillian tells Sarah she is meeting one of the internet guys for a date – an older man she only calls Mr. X. Later that night Sarah sees her get into a fight with an ex. In the middle of the night, she receives a video of a school bus and Jillian panting in fear. She is never seen again.
No one – from the policeman to her white trash mother – believes that she has met with harm. They all start getting texts seeming to be from her saying she just had to leave town, but Sarah still can’t believe she would leave without telling her. Therefore she and the nerdy chess club guy start their own investigation, playing a cyber-cat and mouse game with the mysterious Mr. X. Beyond that unknown man, the town in full of suspects – a group which includes the ex, the pissed-off cop and a repressed religious girl who worked with the friends.
Elsewhere has a savvy eye for modern technology and how modern teens use the internet both as a means of communication, a mating ritual and for more disturbing reasons. It feels very current in a way so many films never do. Yet, in the midst of it all is a timeless mystery which could have happened anytime, anyplace.
Writer/director Hope – a long time Hollywood director of photography – has an evocative visual sense and paces the story well. He builds a taut, suspenseful film which only finally falters at the end – which is a little predictable and clichéd. That is a shame after the strong buildup which leads to it. Still, despite the fact that it loses steam in the end, Elsewhere is a very impressive piece of genre filmmaking that deserved a chance to make it on the big screen.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 18, 2009.