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quietearth [Film Festival 04.09.12] Canada thriller

Year: 2012
Directors: Justin Thomas Ostensen
Writers: Signe Olynyk
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 7.5 out of 10

If the name Edward Furlong usually has you reaching for the remote or even more drastically some sort of weapon, then you’ll be thrilled to hear that in Below Zero he gives a rather splendid performance as a hung-over screenwriter/hack who’s locked in a meat freezer until he can finish his latest script or else he’s (cold) toast. The actual script for the film was written by Signe Olynyk who locked herself in a meat freezer to write the film, and the film is about a man trapped in a freezer, and in the film he decides to base his idea on is the concept of a man trapped in a meat freezer too. Talk about meta-fiction.

The story begins with Furlong, playing a down-at-heel scumbag with one previous success and a bad case of writers block, meeting the cheerful caretaker Penny (Kristen Booth) who is going to lock him away for five days come hell or high water (“your agent paid me extra not to let you out”). She has a young son who doesn’t speak much, but acts as inspiration for a character in Furlong’s script, as does Penny and indeed himself as the protagonist ‘Frank’. Frank (as we see in visualizations of the film within a film) has a car accident and finds himself wandering the site of a slaughterhouse run by Michael Berryman (of The Hills Have Eyes/Weird Science fame) who appears to be psychopathic murderer with a young mute son who may or may not be some kind of apparition. After witnessing Berryman hacking a corpse to pieces from the shadows, Furlong quickly hides in the freezer and discovers that he’s locked in. He’s not alone though, as the appropriately named ‘Paige’ (also played by Booth) is trapped with him and they start to formulate a plan of escape. Back in ‘reality’ however, Furlong’s writer starts to hear strange noises from outside his locked door and starts to freak out, as the two versions of reality start to merge and parallels of a bizarre sort start to form between them.

This is a smart thriller with a very self-conscious bent and is not afraid to play with the audience’s sense of expectation. It’s very telling that the producers hired two strange cinema icons in Furlong and Berryman, and they both give their best here, obviously self aware and not afraid to wink at the camera (at one point in one reality Furlong simply reaches out towards the camera and produces a script, correcting his creations in their lines of dialogue and handing the script back to the camera man – that was a nice touch). Director Justin Ostensen and the writer/producer Olynyk decided to use the low budget to their advantage, filming in a small Canadian town and living in the very meat freezer the script was written in during production, having a vast amount of support from the local townsfolk, even casting one local girl to play the spooky little boy (see this is confusing?) and creating a giant dead pig out of a swing-set and some latex. It’s a film which is the definition of more than the sum of its parts and is defiantly a labor of love.

During the film Furlong runs the gamut of emotions, playing two (or maybe three) characters suffering various incidents from discovering that the vegetarian meals he’s been provided with contain meat, to life threatening encounters with our psychopath and his kin. Yes, when I saw Furlong’s name in the line-up I groaned inwardly and thought about that ‘Crow’ film he made with Tara Reid, but honestly, he’s perfect in this role and apparently turned-up on time, on set and ready to give his best. Good going Eddie.

If I were to choose a genre mash-up it would be ‘Adaptation meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ although the violence is played down in favour of thrills and suspense. It’s an easy film to recommend to anyone who likes twisty thrillers and labyrinthine plot structures, and as such I had a pretty great time. If this one is playing at any theatre near you then my advice is to check it out, twice if possible.

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