Thursday, May 2, 2019

Nate Hood Loves Something Else (2019) Tribeca 2019

2019 has already seen two high profile thriller/horror movies that played fast and loose with audience expectations and genre conventions. The first, M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass, was a confounding, occasionally inspired superhero send-up part psychological chess game and part bare-knuckle brawler that improvised its own lore with the speed and impunity of a child inventing new powers during a game of pretend at recess. Jordan Peele’s Us similarly kept audiences disoriented, framing the first two acts as a monster home invasion story before smash-cutting into bizarro, esoteric science fiction. Both films have their supporters and detractors, but key to their appeal is their willingness to trick and deceive their viewers with jarring tonal and genre twists.

Jeremy Gardner and Christian Stella’s Something Else is similar in its means and ambitions, morphing almost literally scene-from-scene. The setup sees a depressed bar owner living out in a dilapidated mansion in the swamps outside of Miami doing battle against a creature that stalks him at night. The man, Hank (Gardner), is struggling to recover after Abby (Brea Grant), his girlfriend of ten years, suddenly up and leaves him one day. Though the creature leaves claw marks on his door and pools of blood on his porch, none of his neighbors believe the creature is real. Astute viewers of modern horror might see in this scenario the same kind of metaphor propelling other current day classics—the monster is Hank’s grief just as the entity in It Follows (2014) represents STDs and the titular monster of The Babadook (2014) represents parental grief over raising troubled children. But that’s falling into Gardner and Stella’s trap, as they want you to interpret what’s happening figuratively instead of literally.

I won’t say more, but the film’s amorphous approach to genre can be exhausting: flashbacks of Hank and Abby together are Cameron Crowe romcom shlock; swampland excursions with his friend from the bar are breezy buddy comedy; and a handful of scenes of characters talking about their emotional woundedness are painfully effective drama. But it’s hard to get frustrated at Something Else since it switches genre so often we never get our balance to begin with. The result is a remarkably free-form bit of filmmaking that will probably turn off viewers looking for a more traditional horror experience. But if the viewer goes with its flow, they might be pleasantly delighted.

Rating: 7/10

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