Saturday, April 27, 2019

Tribeca ’19: Something Else

You never see a film where things are perfect in the present, but miserable in the past, wherein the flashbacks explain how things got good. Instead, it is an idyllic past that slowly turns into a rotten present. Hank’s movie life is a perfect example. He was madly in love with Abby, but one day she just up and leaves him with no warning. Shortly thereafter, a sinister monster starts terrorizing him at night—maybe—in Jeremy Gardner & Christian Stella’s Something Else, which screens during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

When they first got together, Hank was totally ga-ga over Abby, but he never did cotton to the idea of marriage. Maybe that is part of the reason she silently bailed. He takes it hard, but to make matter worse, a strange beast starts beating and scratching on the doors of his rambling farmhouse late at night. Outsiders just assume the increasingly sweaty and irritable Hank is just under some kind of delusion. Of course, his erratic, shotgun wielding behavior does not help much.

Still, at some point, his cop brother-in-law ought to look at the deep scratches on his door and admit they are a trifle odd. Instead, he just explains them away as bears or panthers or some kind of freak boating accident. On the other hand, it is tough to get too comfortable with Jeremy Gardner’s bulging eyes and jittery performance as Hank. Even though we have certain expectations as genre movie fans, Gardener makes us constantly question them.

As Abby, Brea Grant also plays it scrupulously straight and shows tremendous respect for the genre in her scenes opposite Gardener. In several keys scenes, they have the same level of intensity and ferocity you would expect to see if they were doing a Tracy Letts play instead of a grungy midnight movie.

Weirdly, Something Else shares a number of similarities with producers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead’s Spring. Both films combine love, the pain of frustrated relationships, and weird monster business. However, Something Else’s aesthetics are definitely more redneck and slightly more mumblecore than the elegantly operatic Spring. In this case, Benson also scores most of the film’s biggest laughs portraying Hank’s goofy crony, Shane.

It would be spoilery to explain how, but timing is everything in Something Else. Gardener & Stella definitely have a keen intuitive sense of when to keep their powder dry and when to pull out the rug from us. They are greatly aided by the way Gardener and Grant pull us into the characters’ intimate drama. It might be too restrained for some horror fans, but those who appreciate Benson & Moorhead’s more relationship-driven films should enjoy it. Recommended for fans of subtle and sinister genre-blurring films, Something Else screens tonight (4/27), tomorrow night (4/28), and Sunday (5/5), as part of this year’s Tribeca.