Review by Joseph Fayed
Expanding a short film into a full-length feature is never an easy task. The Latent Image takes its source material from an eerie story to one with more twists and turns than you could count. The confusion of fact vs. fiction settles this thriller on a high note.
Ben (Joshua Tonks) is a writer working on a novel in a remote cabin he has rented. A drifter's (Jay Clift) car breaks down nearby, and he goes to Ben for help. As time passes, tension rises, and both men become suspicious of what little they know about the other person.
Focusing mostly on these two characters, a lot needs to happen to make this story engaging. Its use of unreliable narrators was wise and leads to as many twists as Wild Things. Like Wild Things, the film comes off as unrealistic at times. The dialogue is a bit stale at first, and while one may think it is because they are trying to establish how awkward a meeting under such circumstances is, it often seems like a first draft that our two leads didn't know how to act out.
Despite decent cinematography and lighting, this film didn't make use of its low budget at times. The cabin where most of the story takes place looks like something out of a university theater production. The woods, which also served as the setting, featured trails that were as well kept and well-lit as ones you would see on a private property with many acres in the Northeast. Both were definitely a turn-off, as a dingy cabin would have been more acceptable to recreate, as opposed to one with a spiral staircase on the inside.
At its best, the film does establish its cat and mouse game well. The underlying fear of a situation involving two strangers hooks you in, and its performances are unsettling. Both leads adapt to stereotypes their characters are based on too. Ben, the writer, is shown to lack intimacy with other men, while the drifter seems to have creeped enough people out during his travels to not make any social bonds. The actor's chemistry fuels this and adds to a surprising reveal nearing the film's climax.
The Latent Image shows you how two strangers with ulterior motives act in isolation. Some of this seems like it was directly carried over from the short film it was inspired by, to result in a mixed bag. The suspense it does create puts this above any horror that focuses too much on shock and awe through gore. Bonus points go towards aspiring writer Ben effectively using a typewriter throughout the film to write his novel, which is a nice surprise to see in any film set in the modern day.
The Latent Image is now on VOD.