Let's be honest. Indie horror is a dime a dozen. Between relatively modest production costs and the sheer joy of making horror, it seems like every filmmaker and every wannabe filmmaker takes a stab, pun intended, at the indie horror scene.
Let's also be honest. Indie horror is seldom done well. I can't count the number of indie horror films that have come across my desk over the years, mostly to fail abysmally despite confident e-mailed proclamations to the contrary.
So, I was admittedly surprised when I found myself quite engrossed in writer/director Stephen Portland's indie horror flick Something, the tale of a man (Michael Gazin) and a woman (Jane Rowen) struggling to adapt to life with a new baby. However, their life really begins to unravel when they begin to suspect that a menacing stranger could be stalking them, watching them and, just perhaps, even entering their home.
Something recently screened right here in Indiana at Fort Wayne's growing Hobnobben Film Festival and has also screened at several other fests including Silcon Beach Film Festival, Derby Film Festival, North Hollywood CineFest, and Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival. It seems inevitable that the film will continue to experience quite a bit of festival success with its highly suspenseful vibes, solid storyline, and performances by co-leads Michael Gazin and Jane Rowen that weave together natural domesticity with uber creepy.
There are times that having a low budget is a bad thing. It impacts pretty much every aspect of a production from who you cast to how you shoot and the quality of your production design, sound, lensing and much more.
However, there are times that a low budget can also work to a filmmaker's advantage. Throughout much of Something, the film's low budget actually resulted in a naturalness and authenticity that worked quite nicely with the performances and gave the film's horror/mystery vibes a sense of normalcy that heightened the suspense in a way that is often difficult to do in low-budget horror when you're stuck not able to pull off some of those high tech, high budget tricks.
Something didn't really need any tricks.
As noted, the film benefits from its solid ensemble cast including, most especially, Gazin and Rowin, whose characters are known here only as "Man" and "Woman," an approach that at first seems odd yet fits quite nicely within the framework of the film. Joel Clark Ackerman is solid in a supporting turn as a cop, while Eric Roberts, yep that Eric Roberts, shows up in a brief cameo toward the end.
Charlie Emerson's original music helps to heighten the suspense, though never dominates the film while Christopher James Jordan's lensing accomplishes quite a bit despite those budgetary challenges. Jordan's ability to frame shots, balance relationships, and build suspense with his lens were all super impressive from beginning to end.
This is not to say, of course, that there's no evidence at all of the film's budgetary constraints. At times, Something is hindered by abrupt edits that prove a tad jarring to the sense of suspense. Additionally, while technology has made pristine, stellar lensing possible on a minimal budget the audio world has yet to catch up and the film's occasional sound mix issues are at times evident.
Minor tech issues aside, Something is a quality indie horror/mystery with a terrific cast and a familiar yet nicely constructed story that remains involving throughout the film's nearly 90-minute running time. For more information on Something, visit the film's website linked to in the credits and be sure to watch for it at a festival near you.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic