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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 10.25.15]

For the first twenty minutes of writer/director Trevor Juras’ first feature, The Interior, viewers can be forgiven for thinking they’re watching a Joe Swanberg mumblecore comedy, which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself – if you’re into that kind of thing.  

James (Patrick McFadden) is a disillusioned young man, unhappy in his white collar job, who spends his days dreaming about telling off his boss and his evenings recording agonizingly bad rap songs.  When he learns that he is ill with a mysterious ailment, he decides to quit his job and leave Toronto – and his girlfriend – behind in order to do some soul-searching on an extended camping trip deep in the British Columbia forest.  When pressed as to why by said girlfriend, his response is, “I want the opposite of this.”  As depressing and insulting as those six words may seem, it’s actually the sweetest and most tender moment of The Interior.

It’s not giving away too much to say it’s at this point that the title card appears and things shift dramatically, the dull and grainy indie vibe of the previous twenty minutes giving way to beautiful and vibrant cinematography – courtesy of first time director-of-photography Othello J. Ubalde – that makes The Interior look so much better than can be expected of any low budget indie film.  

The next hour of the movie is mostly spent silently watching James alone in the forest, and at first one gets the feeling that the loneliness and despair that he felt in an overpopulated metropolis is not present for him in B.C.’s interior.

Once he encounters a mysterious stranger who seems to be stalking him, though, James’ paranoia and anxieties rapidly return, leading up to a feverish climax that will likely leave many viewers scratching their heads wondering what they’ve just witnessed.

McFadden, in his first feature film, gives an outstanding performance, portraying James as a sarcastic and cynical yet oh-so-fragile young man in the early scenes.  His transformation to a wide-eyed and optimistic explorer in the second act is appropriately abrupt, followed by ever-increasing instances where he has to parlay the fear and paranoia of a man teetering on the edge of sanity.  To that end, Juras – who also edited the film – uses the solitude and silence of the woods to instill fear of the unknown into his audience.  The nighttime scenes are nothing if not chilling, especially as James sits in his tent reading by lamplight and the smallest noise or ripple of his tent's wall scares him to the point of dementia.  The loudly played Chopin music juxtaposed with the more frenetic scenes only adds to the overall sense that we are witnessing a man's spiral into madness.

Comparisons to The Blair Witch Project are inevitable with a horror film set in the forest, and normally that would be a fair comparison. Make no mistake, though: The Interior is a unique psychological horror film that seemingly leaves a lot of things open to interpretation.  The initial reaction as the film ends might be “I don't get it”, but let it sink in for awhile once it’s over and you’ll likely reach that “Aha!” moment where everything makes sense.  And I'd like to think that's what Trevor Juras – a young filmmaker to look out for – intended all along.

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