FEBRUARY 12 ― With the Oscar nominations just announced earlier this week, the next few weeks will undoubtedly be filled with plenty of Oscar-related news as the race for the big prize heats up.
Having not yet seen a few of the major Oscar contenders (some due to time constraints while some, like Licorice Pizza, due to unavailability in cinemas or streaming over here), I think it’s better to start writing my thoughts about the nominations when I’ve seen at least all the major contenders.
What I can say is that there are quite a few surprises, both in terms of movies that were nominated and the ones that were snubbed, like Red Rocket and C’mon C’mon, and even though I enjoyed watching CODA a lot, seeing it nominated in a lot of the major categories still felt like it came out of nowhere.
Still, I’ll reserve my judgment until after I’m done catching up with all the major Oscar hopefuls, so before I dive into all those dramatic/prestige Hollywood offerings, why not have a bit of fun and check out some less respectable genre offerings first?
The Free Fall
Psychological horror films are a dime a dozen nowadays, and have been for a very long time.
Maybe it’s the fascinating thrill of trying to depict (for filmmakers) and witnessing (for audiences) a protagonist’s descent into madness that has kept both parties coming back for more, it’s something that’s proven surprisingly durable even after all these years.
The Free Fall is director Adam Stillwell’s second feature film, after the under-seen but quite solid The Triangle from almost six years ago, and like that debut, it’s still an underdog low budget US indie horror flick fighting for attention on VOD, which means that outside of the rabid horror fanbase, precious few would have heard of the film.
But don’t let its obscurity deter you, for this is one film that will totally reward you, should you decide to stick it out all the way until its quite brilliant end.
I’m being really careful here, so as not to spoil things for you, dear readers, so I’ll try my best to parse out only the most relevant information with regards to the film’s plot.
The movie follows a woman named Sara, who wakes up from a coma to a life that she doesn’t remember, which includes her doting husband Nick, who tries his best to help her as she begins to piece her memories back together.
Like all good psychological horror films of this ilk, Stillwell places enough sly clues to remind audiences (and Sara) that things are not always what they seem.
What we do know is that Sara seems to be having trouble dealing with the death of her parents, and has tried to commit suicide as a result.
The more impatient viewer might already be prepared to give up as Stillwell sets up this scenario, but trust me when I say that the story pivots into a surprisingly fresh new direction later on, which will reward your patience greatly.
Being a fan of director Choi Jae-Hoon’s debut film The Swordsman, I had pretty high hopes for this, his follow-up film, especially when I found out that he chose to work in the horror genre this time.
Even the film’s high concept ― about a group of university students who unwisely chose to play around with hypnosis for various reasons ― promises a fun but unsettling time at the movies.
When you have things like hypnosis and the inevitable hallucinations (which here involves things like maggots, broken glass, moths, ashes and more) cum scare set-pieces, you know that a scary good time is always a possibility.
But knowing how slick Korean movies can be technically (and after having seen how slick and graceful a job Jae-Hoon is capable of, as evidenced by his superb debut film), there’s something quite underwhelming in how The Hypnosis is presented visually.
To be brutally honest, the whole film has the look and feel of a TV movie, with a very flat digital look to its lighting and cinematography, which is not helped by the pretty choppy execution when it comes to the film’s many scare set-pieces.
The only reason I kept on watching was because the story itself is interesting and exciting enough to merit sticking to, technicalities be damned.
In short, this is a revenge movie, for what seemed like an innocent act committed by this group of university students when they were little kids, and there’s a couple of little twists and turns (that aren’t that hard to predict) that will keep you interested, but it’s let down by the execution of its many set-pieces, which are just not as scary or thrilling as they could be.
Let’s hope that this is just a case of inexperience on Jae-Hoon’s part, and not evidence of a slump in creativity after such an awesome and promising debut.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.