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Interior, The (2015)
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by Jay Seaver

"Scary stuff in the woods without even a cabin."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "The Interior" seemingly starts as an one thing and stays that way for roughly the first third, when the title comes up, the scene shifts, and the main character re-appears with a new look and direction, as if to say that now the movie begins after the backstory. It is, really, a clever way to split the film up, even if it's going to be a bit of time before the film gets where it's going.

As it starts, James (Patrick McFadden) is an office drone and hates it. It's funny at first - he responds to the idiotic situations with the kind of sarcasm that is career-limiting in real life, and when he eventually moves to something a little more honest and less soul-destroying, the audience is inclined to root for him a bit even if it's also alarming. Eventually, though, he finds out just how much worse it can be, and that's when opts to leave Toronto behind and go for an extended camping trip in British Columbia, even if he's never been one for nature before.

And so The Interior becomes a middle-of-the-woods horror movie, with the twist being that James is apparently craving isolation in this phase of his life, and it's the possibility of human contact that has him jumpy, and not necessarily because it's dangerous. It's not quite an inversion of the usual set-up, but the difference in motivation and a set-up that doesn't leave much room for the supernatural gets the audience to react a bit differently to scenes which offer jumps or mysteries differently, making things both more engrossing and uneasy. Writer/director Trevor Juras seems more determined than usual to earn a viewer's reaction, so that even the moments where he's pushing buttons aren't just getting programmed responses.

The first scene starts a chain of events that leads directly to the last, even if that chain will take James to the other side of Canada and occasionally seem like just wandering in the woods and has plenty of moments that seem random in the middle. There's obviously something going on in James's head that may or may not explain why he's so motivated, and which may explain the inexplicable things going on around him, and Juras deserves credit for how tightly this all fits together, especially since even when James and the other characters are saying things, they're generally not doing obvious set-up. That first scene, for instance, is kind of brilliantly constructed to set everything up and then actively hide that set-up until it's needed.

That plays out in two or three clear phases, with Patrick McFadden central to what I believe is every scene. He gives a strong performance, sort of doing the same thing twice at different speeds: Both start out with him appealing and funny, if a bit misanthropic, but while the first section appears to stick with that until it's time to crush him in short order, the rest draws the process out, letting McFadden do a fine job of letting the growing fear come out so that the climactic stretch is genuinely nerve-racking because even if the viewer can come up with theories to explain the things that don't make sense, McFadden and Juras maintain such a firm connection to James's perspective that those explanations don't matter.

It's interesting how the feel of the movie shifts from Toronto to BC; the first segment feels tight and and a bit washed out, like it was really shot on a shoestring and didn't mind looking somewhat homemade. Once they get out west, though, Juras and cinematographer Othello J. Ubalde really open things up without allowing the forest to make James small or feeling like they're going for the pretty shot. The editing is nice and taut, too, not wasting much time but also never feeling rushed.

I dig it. This is a small movie that would seem to hit my fear of being lost in the woods but actually inverts it, and gives the audience a surprisingly broad number of moods on the way to an inevitable, but still thrilling, conclusion. You can make this sort of film without a whole lot, but it's seldom done this well.

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originally posted: 08/29/15 10:37:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2015 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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