Review by Sean Boelman
Olivia West Lloyd’s Somewhere Quiet is an impressively directed entry into the “things that go bump in the mind” brand of psychological horror, but as soon as you begin to dissect its script, it begins to fall entirely apart. Nonetheless, it’s clear that Lloyd is a talented director to watch — if only she writes something that’s a bit more logical.
The film follows a woman who, in an attempt to readjust to normalcy after a kidnapping, travels with her husband to his family’s compound where she begins to lose her grip on reality. If you’re like me, you may be wondering, “Well how does it make sense for someone to readjust to society by shutting themselves off from the world again?” Reader, it doesn’t.
From the first few sequences, it seems as if Somewhere Quiet will be a rip-off on the Get Out formula: a Korean-American protagonist and her white husband are taking a trip to a secluded getaway… what could go wrong? While the racial commentary is there — such as one scene in which she questions why one of her hosts felt inclined to speak in Korean to her unprompted — it’s generally underdeveloped because it is a second priority.
Instead, the true intentions of the movie are revealed a few minutes in, when news footage plays on a dated television in a roadside gas station (of the needlessly and inexplicably unsettling variety, of course), explaining that the protagonist had just recently resurfaced after surviving a kidnapping. The premise is certainly fertile ground for psychological horror, but what we get instead is a bland gaslighting thriller.
The film is composed mostly of conversations with sinister undertones and weird noises happening in the background of otherwise normal activities. The goal seems to be to throw viewers into the protagonist’s world of disorientation and anxiety, and to that effect, it mostly succeeds. However, the fatal flaw of Somewhere Quiet is that it doesn’t build to anything, thus feeling extraordinarily anticlimactic by the end.
That being said, even though the movie is a bit short in the narrative department, it makes up for it in a killer atmosphere. The cinematography by Conor Murphy is exquisite — from the close-up shots of the protagonist’s anxious face to the wide (but somehow still claustrophobic) shots of the woods. And even though it is a bit conventional, there’s no denying that the soundscape and score are pretty effective.
The actors also earn some praise, particularly Jennifer Kim, who plays the character in a very believable, nuanced way even though the ambiguity of the character does not serve her. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marin Ireland is absolutely chewing the scenery up. She has so many diatribes that make very little sense, yet her delivery is so committed that it’s hard to deny their impact.
It would be difficult to encapsulate Somewhere Quiet — or the rest of the horror genre, these days — any better than Jamie Lee Curtis said about her Laurie Strode character in the Halloween franchise: “It’s about TRAUMA.” And quite frankly, it’s getting old.
Somewhere Quiet screens at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, which runs June 7-18 in NYC and June 19 through July 2 online.