Vertical Entertainment – 2014
Written and Directed by Travis Oates
Brian Austin Green
David de Lautour
Wow, this one took me by surprise. I give first time feature filmmaker Travis Oates a lot of credit for having the balls to make a no-frills gripping-suspense thriller that is unlike anything Hollywood is releasing.
Ten friends travel to a remote mountain resort for a getaway weekend. Upon arriving at the scenic destination, they discover nobody there. There are all kind of signs that there had been people there recently (food on plates, stove still on, etc.) but there’s not a soul in sight. Weirder yet, they notice no birds or even insects on the ground. This begins a massive mystery as to what happened to everyone and where did they go? Worse yet, one by one each one of the friends starts disappearing without any rhyme or reason and the group are unable to stop it from happening.
Oates takes a gutsy stance of not spoon-feeding you answers, which only increases the tension. I love his directorial approach as big-studio films seem to dumb everything down, worried about giving away answers and putting priority on predictable cheesy CGI effects and mind-numbing action that bores me to the core. Acting becomes the engine that drives this movie and thankfully the cast does their part to make it all hold up.
Mena Suvari (American Pie 1 & 2, American Beauty) and Brian Austin Green (Chromeskull: Laid To Rest, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, 90210) headline the ensemble cast. Zack Ward (the red head bully kid from A Christmas Story) plays loose cannon, Fiona Gubelmann brings a touch of sexuality and I really liked Leif Gantvoort’s easy going manner.
The New Mexico shooting location was special. Not only did it provide beautiful natural scenery, but the huge immaculate all wood, well-lit resort was the opposite setting you’d normally find in a scary movie, which added to its unpredictability.
Obviously this film has the classic set-up of Agatha Christie’s highly influential novel Ten Little Indians. It also reminded me of the human volatility of the film 12 Angry Men, where people respond differently to a high pressure situation.
One of the best film’s I’ve seen in 2014.