Review by Sean Boelman
It’s clear that the McManus Brothers want their newest film, The Block Island Sound, to be the next best supernatural/sci-fi horror in the same vein as cult-favorite filmmaker duo Benson and Moorhead. And while they succeed in creating an effectively creepy atmosphere, the script is lacking enough substance to make it particularly interesting.
The movei follows a family that begins to fall apart after the patriarch, and soon his adult son, begins to behave bizarrely and environmental phenomena start happening around them. The first mistake here is that the film leans too heavily on a mystery element for much of the first act, only to stop caring about it for the rest of the story.
For a slow-burn horror, the movie is actually pretty intense. There are a handful of moments, especially early on, that are chilling thanks to excellent sound design or some very creepy imagery. However, as the film goes on, it becomes clear that the filmmakers only have so many tricks up their sleeves, and so it starts to feel rather repetitive.
The McManus Brothers are able to create a sufficient amount of suspense through the camera and sound mixing, but there still some issues with the execution. The few CGI shots show just how much of an independent, low-budget production this is. And there are some scenes that are unnecessarily dark.
The metaphor for losing control of oneself to mental illness is rather direct (although not as direct as it is has been in other recent genre pictures), but the angle from which the script approaches it is intriguing. A lot of focus is put on the survivor’s guilt felt by loved ones and how the weight of thinking one didn’t do enough to help a loved one.
Anyone who has lost a loved one to a debilitating disease such as dementia will identify with the protagonist and how his world is falling apart. Unfortunately, none of the supporting characters are equally well-developed. The protagonist’s sister becomes a major factor heading into the final act, but there’s not enough of a foundation there for this perspective shift.
The actors do quite a good job in their roles, but not enough to bolster a weak script. Neville Archambault is probably the biggest standout as the trance-induced father, having some of the creepiest scenes in the movie. Chris Sheffield is also solid, not being particularly nuanced but offering a scaled-down version of Archambault’s turn.
There are some interesting things happening in The Block Island Sound, but for the most part, it’s disappointing. A good atmosphere and a few solid scares aside, there isn’t much that makes this sci-fi thriller particularly memorable.
The Block Island Sound screened as a part of the virtual edition of the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival, which runs August 20-September 2. An encore screening (geoblocked to Canada) occurs on September 1 at 11:10pm.