THRESHOLD *** USA 2020 Dirs.: Powell Robinson, Patrick Robert Young. 78 mins
The genre of ‘quiet Horror’ is showing up more in film these days. Quiet Horror, being a ‘slow burn’ style of film making that hopefully builds to a payoff. Good film makers can use it to create atmosphere and work character while the poor ones like M. Night Shyamalan just lie to you for no reason. The writing and directing team of Powel Robinson and Robert Patrick Young have fashioned a taunt thriller of a film called THRESHOLD (2020). It offers some strong characters in a story that tends to get lost.
No wasted footage here. The story begins in voice over as school music teacher Leo (Joey Millin) gets a call from his mother saying “We’ve found Virginia.” Leo’s task is to pick Virginia up and bring her home.
Leo has not seen or heard from his sister Virginia (Madison West) for three years, due to her frequent substance abuse caused family troubles. However, there is a link between brother and sister. Leo finds Virginia in her ex-boyfriend’s apartment, writhing on the bed. She also vomits quit graphically for the moment in a nearby bowl, gets up and wants food. While enjoying coffee Virginia reveals that she has in fact been clean for some time, and instead says her strange behavior is the result of a cure a cult gave her to get off drugs. Virginia doesn’t remember the ritual only that it binded her to a male who was in the same trouble. She tells Leo “I’m cursed,” explaining that there is a connection between her and a male stranger (Daniel Abraham Stevens). They feel what the other feels – no matter what it is. She believes the only way she can end this is with Leo’s help to find the stranger. Virginia carves a message into the flesh of her arm asking where her other half is. Surprisingly, she gets an address and Leo and she set off to find the person.
THRESHOLD (2020) was shot on two IPhones over a 12 day period with a 20-page treatment. This means most of the dialogue is improvised. Having done this style of work in theatre, I can say it can lead to interesting surprises and literal dead ends. Madison West and Joey Millin do their level best with revelations involving a punk rock playing past, shoplifting in their youth and a confession of beating up a guy that stood up Virginia for a date. All lovely stuff that becomes padding on the real story: the journey to find the stranger.
THRESHOLD (2020) has images of communication or lack of understanding. Everyone wants to talk to someone or find what someone is doing. Leo talks to his mother, and Kelsey his wife, plus his young daughter Ally. This communication can be tenuous sometimes in the film and delicate as Leo is desperately trying to maintain ties with his wife Kelsey, who we later learn wants him to sign divorce papers. Without a doubt there is chemistry between Millin and West on screen. The camera loves them both and they have good silent moments, however, one grows weary of the side trips, tantrums and general whining.
The end of the road features some jarring moments and a punchline. THRESHOLD (2020) is worth a look if not for composition, but editing and the brilliant onscreen presence of both the lead actors. It is too bad that the journey has needless moments that do not contribute to the pay off.
Review by Terry Sherwood