Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net by: Harvey Karten
Director: Stephen Portland
Screenwriter: Stephen Portland
Cast: Michael Gazin, Jane Rowen, Joel Clark Ackerman, Eric Roberts
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 2/21/19
Opens: March 1, 2019
If you want to make a horror film to catch on with the typical fans—teens, maybe 20-somethings—you may need name actors and an expense account to hire a crew of animators, set designers, costumers and the like. In his debut feature, though, Stephen Portland goes with a true, low-budget movie, though it’s clearly not the kind of picture you could make at home behind your iPhone as director, writer, editor and cinematographer. In his “Something” everything takes place inside a spacious ranch house with just a shot or two of the land outside. The focus is on just two people, one named Man (Michael Gazin) and the other, his wife Woman (Jane Rowen). Later, Portland, who wrote the script as well, will bring in a couple of cops, one named Cop (Joel Clark Ackerman) and the other named Rookie (Evan Carter); then finally, Eric Roberts, wearing a frightful rug, takes a role with a job that should not be revealed in a review to avoid giving away a surprise.
Actually “Something,” while remaining in the horror genre, is really a mood piece. If you’re a mature moviegoer who realizes that nothing made after William Friedkin’s 1973 movie “The Exorcist” has been able to hold a candle to that classic in the horror genre, you will be pleased watching this movie. This is the kind of pic that people like us can identify with, whether you’re in your late 20’s or early 30’s like Man and Woman or whether you have ever lived in a house or apartment with another person. (Michael Gazin in his sophomore feature film role is 34 while Jane Rowen looks about the same age.)
If you pay close attention, you will notice a couple of hints early on that will allow you to guess the surprise ending. Most of the story is a dialogue between Man and Woman, the type of talk that could take place in any household with a new baby, with a mother who may love her little man but is also frustrated with latter’s crying. Both are sleepy: he, possibly a freelancer, is about to take a business trip out of the country to the dismay of woman, who is frightened. She finds a knife in the baby’s crib. He chews her out, wondering how she could do such a thing. Twice, the door to the nursery is locked requiring Man to force the lock. He blames her for that as well. He finds his passport in the trash, and he naturally blames her since she had a strong motive to sabotage his trip. When the baby carriage is outside during the night in the cold, she again states that she doesn’t know what she’s doing lately. That could have just about broken up their marriage.
As if their marriage bonds have not been frayed enough, a ghostly presence appears several times inside the house, disappearing without having to open and close the windows and the screens. She sees it. He sees it. At least one other person is going to spot the creature as well.
Have you guessed the identity of the intruder? I did not because I probably was not paying close enough attention to the unfolding of the story. There is reasonable chemistry between Man and Woman, though three nights straight they both go to bed in their street clothes, wishing each other a good night. The dialogue is naturalistic; the sorts of subjects that married people who are not cast in a Shakespearean tragedy say to each other. As a whole this modest picture, notwithstanding the lack of conspicuous cleverness in the writing or bells and whistles is an enjoyable enough experience.
86 minutes. © 2019 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B
Acting – B
Technical – B-
Overall – B