In the middle of the night, Gunnar (Björn Stefánsson) receives a concerning phone call from his ex-boyfriend Einar (Sigurður Þór Óskarsson). He quickly leaves the comforts of his new life and boyfriend to see to Einar, who is staying in a remote but scenic cabin. Einar has always been troubled but this time it feels different. As the pair begins to reconnect, strange and unnerving occurrences begin. Someone, a figure in red, is out there and looking to get into the cabin. It could be a junkie drifter, or it possibly something much more sinister.
Rift is the sophomore film effort by writer/director Erlingur Thoroddsen. Shot in just 15 days, with a slim crew of 10 (including the cast), the film is compact and intimate affair. The cinematography by John Wakayama Carey is nothing short of breathtaking, fully utilizing the beautiful Icelandic landscape to complement and steer the mood of the film. With loving homages to the works of Nicholas Roeg (such as Don’t Look Now and Performance), Rift transcends into something wholly unique and special. And that’s not just because it may very well be the first Icelandic gay horror film, as well as the first Icelandic film with two gay leads.
Atmosphere prevails over logic in the film. To appreciate it, you must ask “how does this make me feel?” instead of “What is going on?” Rift is as truthful as Gunnar and Einar allow it to be. But truth requires lucidity, which isn’t always afforded to either of them. Both are marked by trauma which helped define the men they’ve become. Like broken bones that were never set properly, their pasts never had a chance to fully heal. The external elements are used as placeholders for what’s left unsaid. The hauntingly gorgeous landscapes echo the emptiness and sorrow within them. The threat of danger just outside their door a mirror to the pain in their hearts. It’s much too late for their relationship to have a future but, as they interact, it’s clear they were meant for each other.
Rift is a psychological horror film marked by a distinct and relatable somberness. If I wasn’t overcome with white-knuckled tension, I’d probably want to break down and sob.
The film will be released on VOD platforms and DVD on November 21, 2017.