CULT FACTION

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The Block Island Sound (2020)

What’s killing all the fish and why are birds dropping dead from the sky? This movie offers up a multitude of candidates from chemtrails to secret government mind control and settles on none.

The movie opens on a boat off the coast of Block island.  A disoriented, grizzled fisherman, Tom Lynch played by Neville Archambault awakes to find his boat in a shambles and a dog lead (minus the dog) dangling over board.  With no explanation of how or why he is out there we return to shore to find a traditional fishing village as it prepares for its transition from summer vacation destination to winter isolation.  We’re introduced to Tom’s hard drinking, hot headed son Harry (Chris Sheffield) and his conspiracy theorist, drinking buddy Dale (Jim Cummings).  It soon becomes apparent that this isn’t the first time Tom has taken the boat out for no reason and is just one example of the erratic behaviour he has been exhibiting lately.

Harry’s sister Audrey (Michaela McManus) has been sent to the island in her role as EPA researcher to investigate why tonnes of fish have been washing up dead.  After a particularly tense family meal Audrey settles her young daughter (Emily) down for a night spent on the sofa and everyone goes off to bed.  At some point during the night the household is woken by Emily’s screams and find her on the lounge floor with Tom standing over her apparently dazed and confused claiming she must have had a nightmare.  Audrey decides to leave first thing in the morning.

Soon Tom is dead and focus switches to Harry who is now exhibiting similar behaviour.  He is losing time, taking the boat out in the middle of the night just as his father did and experiencing hallucinations in the form of his dead father and guttural growling noises.   All the while the townsfolk are increasingly suspicious of the circumstances surrounding Toms death.

Directors (Kevin and Matthew McManus) have clearly decided to shun the current trend for multiple jump scares and fake blood, instead going for good old-fashioned slow build intensity focusing on themes of paranoia, isolation, and claustrophobia. As Harry slowly loses his grip on reality the mundane routines of the island itself become just as important to the characterisation of this movie as the supporting cast are.  You get the sense that what’s happening here can only happen here and the outside world doesn’t care.

Verdict:  7/10.  Ominous, bleak and taught, the horror comes from the sound design and the camera work, which is what you expect from a low budget indie horror, its not until the final act that we are given a true Hollywood style scare and this film is all the better for it.   Overall, this film achieves exactly what it set out to do without the need over explain or rely on formulaic tropes.  It’s the final monologue as the movie closes that goes some way to offering insight into what’s been happening.  However, the audience is left to draw its own conclusion as to what the titular sound is and what its intentions are (nefarious or otherwise).  Remember, sometimes they get put back.

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