Monday, July 9, 2012
Ross Shepherds' LOW: The Captives of Grief
Directed by Ross Shepherd
Written by Jamie Tighe
Low Official Site
Like an irresistible magnetic force, grief can bring people together in profound ways. There are negative and positive ways in which the grief-stricken can connect. Two people can bond over loss, and hopefully use empathy to help one another cope. Or, they can descend further into hopelessness, each feeding off the others depression. What's important is that there is someone to share the experience, lest they fade alone into an oblivion of complete despair.
From across the pond comes Low, a microbudget thriller from director Ross Shepherd (Heathen). He brings two downtrodden, grief-stricken characters together in a setting of complete isolation. Low is the second feature from Shepherd, and a solid film at that. What it lacks in expensive production values, it makes up for in solid storytelling, acting, and creative use of its minimal set up. With this film, Shepherd has set the stage for two disparate coping methods to intermingle. Since this is a horror/thriller, it's to disastrous results.
Alice (Amy Comper) has arrived by train to a secluded spot in the woods to hide a dark secret far away from her home in the city. While burying her past, she is approached by Edward (David Keyes), a man whose menace is barely disguised by his attempt at pleasantness. A threatening aura looms over Edward, and it's not long before he reveals sinister plans for Alice. Alice - alien to her surroundings in the woods - finds herself pursued by a madman.With little to her advantage, her focus is on protecting her secret at any cost.
Keyes is impressive as a man who's lost everything, and wants everyone else to feel his loss through the pain of senseless violence. Comper is competent as the confused and scared Alice. She's able to hold her own with the intensity of Keyes. Alice wants to bury her past forever, but Edward wants to shout about his to the entire world. Edward has committed terrible crimes as a means of coping with a tragedy in his life. He wants nothing more than to share it with a witness, in this case Alice. The two become entwined in a twisted form of therapy, one in which innocent people will die. When Alice's own dark secret is revealed, the emotional resonance reaches even the sympathetic ear of Edward.
In its first act, Low requires a bit of suspension of disbelief. Alice is easily taken by Edward despite opportunities to escape. You may find yourself yelling at the screen that she didn't capitalize on those opportunities. Later on, we learn her history is that of being manipulated by intimidating men in her life. It starts to make a little bit more sense how she can be overpowered by Edward. Edward is also very pursuasive, and having encountered similar people in real life, I can totally see how Alice can become his captive audience. It isn't until the climax that Alice finds her voice and desire to fight back, especially when it's clear her secret is in danger of exposure.
Low obviously has some limitations, but as I stated before, Shepherd and his team have a great grasp of the elements within their control. They deftly work around those limitations, and deliver a satisfying film. The cinematography by Shephard (yes, he shot it himself) is crisp and inventive. The sound design and score are very well done. This could have been a fairly routine stalker-in-the-woods film, but Shepherd and Co. have elevated it to a compelling morality play about the unhealthy ways people cope with loss, and the terrible things people do when no one is listening.