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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 08.23.16] Denmark horror thriller drama

Michael's life is about to change in a big way. A former heroin addict, he's a father-and-husband-to-be but the pressures of settling down are proving to be too much and he's fallen into old habits and his addiction is starting to run afoul on his life.

His fiancé is worried, his boss knows something is up and when Michael takes some money from some shady characters, it looks as though the life he carefully constructed during his sobriety is about to fall apart. It's at this crucial moment that we first meet Michael and The Unraveling follows him as his life careens to rock bottom.

Part survival drama and part slasher film, Thomas Jakobsen's feature film debut showcases all the trappings of a lost in the woods scenario but with the added drama of a man going through withdrawal and The Unraveling works largely because it focuses primarily on Michael's personal drama. As things in the woods turn ugly, Michael finds himself not just warding off a killer who is picking him and his friends off one by one but also the symptoms of withdrawal which are making everything that much worse.

It's a pretty low budget affair with limited locations and gore but Jakobsen and his team make up for the lack of gruesomeness with a great lead performance from Zack Gold as Michael. He's tasked with the role of a drug addict who is becoming increasingly paranoid in an already elevated state of distress and he nails it. His performance head and shoulders outshines the rest of the cast and though everyone puts in a great effort, in some moments it feels like amateur hour – especially when Gold is sharing the screen with some of his less capable comrades. Thankfully the film is very much focused on Michael's journey and the mediocre supporting performances are a minor distraction.

Admittedly I was a bit bored by some of the antics in the second act as the bodies start to pile up but nonetheless, I found myself compelled by Michael and wanting to see if he managed to survive and was then rewarded for sticking around.

Though it doesn't fully succeed at overcoming its limitations, The Unraveling makes for a great thriller with an unexpected and impressive final act. The movie is not only a great vehicle for Gold but Jakobsen more than proves himself capable of balancing tension and drama. I'm excited to see his follow-up.

The Unraveling will have its European debut at FrightFest on Friday, August 26.

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