Features Round-Up at New York City Horror Film Festival
Isabel Harris (Juanita Ringeling) and her husband Josh (Cristobal Tapia Montt) had their idyllic lives destroyed when their young daughter was abducted in Shortwave, written and directed by Ryan Gregory Phillips. In the process of returning to some sense of normalcy, they move to a secluded hillside home where Josh and his research partner Thomas (Kyle Davis) have been hard at work on a secretive project involving a mysterious shortwave radio signal. The signal starts to affect Isabel in unexpected ways. Perhaps the only thing more alarming than the danger the signal poses to Isabel is the discovery of who or what is sending it.
Shortwave is a captivating sensory experience. The beautiful cinematography and aggressive score and sound design collide with jarring but effective results. Sometimes dizzying, other times hypnotic, the film rarely relents. And relentless is precisely how it feels once the violence starts to build. Prepare to squirm–or giggle if you’re twisted soul like me. To its credit, the film is light on exposition and heavy on mood. If you do not get the opportunity to experience it in the theaters, I recommend any home viewing be with the lights off and the volume loud.
It was the recipient of Best Cinematography, Best Sci-Fi, and Best Sound Design at the festival, all of which were well-deserved distinctions.
I wanted to like this film and went in with an open mind despite fairly heavy fatigue from self-referential, meta horror. The novelty on which the film is relying isn’t strong enough to carry it. There’s way too much winking at the camera (figuratively) and it took me out of the film. An unfortunate distraction came from trying to decide if some of the shots in which the foreground figures are blurry and the background crystal clear were in fact a deliberate commentary on the shoddiness of found footage, actual poor shooting with a 3D camera, or a bad projection in the theater. Something like that shouldn’t be ambiguous. If you’re going to satirize a genre (or subgenre in this case), the product has to be airtight. This film wasn’t.
Scott Allen Perry‘s portrayal as the sound operator Carl was one of the film’s saving graces. The performances were strong overall, but he stood out and nailed the material. Additionally, the final act, once it eschewed its commentary on final acts, was tense, bloody, and exciting in all the ways it should be. I’d be willing to give this film another shot sometime, but can’t enthusiastically recommend it. However, it was award Best Screenplay at the festival.