Written by: Daniel McDonald
A first for me in my 53 years of horror film addiction, going into a film that I didn’t know anything about…at all, nada, zip, zero – was not even aware of its existence. So when my best friend/taxi driver Bumbly (who always takes me to horror films not always happily, but I’m disabled and he’s a BEST friend) told me this film…well, existed, I figured what the hell you owe him this, and he told me the trailer ( never saw that either ) gave him the impression there were Sci-Fi undertones that made him think it was a supernatural thriller in the CARRIE, THE FURY “vein” (I manage at least one of those really sad puns in each column – so READER PROCEED AT YOU OWN RISK!!).
Ohhh, but no no nooooo! This was the debut feature film from co-writer and director, J. D. Dillard. A very unusual mixture of tough “Urban Streets” Cinema (with all of the drug trade, macho posturing and salty street talk, but only one scene of violence to earn its R rating), combined with incredibly effective Street Magic (I really am NOT a fan of magic-street or otherwise) and as Bumbly said, a small but evolving Sci-Fi subplot that THINKS it’s much smarter and slicker than it is.
Once again we return to Promotional stylings that so poorly inform, but eagerly disguise the honest tone, subject matter and execution of a production for a few possible (but still deceptively “disguise for dollars”) reasons. Blumhouse and a butt-load of independent producers thought the elements they require for a film to turn a profit, weren’t strong enough AT ALL for its intended audience’s word of mouth buzz, or the fact that too much promotional work, would expose the confusing, far too uneasy mixture of genres, acting ability far more nuanced and mature than audience coming to see a high powered streets, drugs, possible Sci-Fi flick could or would be able to connect with.
I honestly need to back off with T. M. I. as to not spoil the minor pleasures to be found in this “smarter and richer than Tyler Perry, far below the POW action and star power delivered by Antoine Fuqua” curiosity. I was certainly able to appreciate solid cinematography (Ed Wu) and editing (Joel Griffey) an effective score, (Charles Scott), (Joel Hebbner’s) minor but effective FX (on the few occasions they’re required) and especially the more than just a gun flick style that Mr. Dillard goes for in his expositional and “low keyed , looking for realism” relationship scene work. The fact that the entire acting company is quite good and the two lead performances (Jacob Lattimore – a real ” find” and beautiful, gifted (Saychelle Gabriell even better than that, saddens one a bit that the same eyes, mind, and uniquely bold spirit that co-wrote and directed SLEIGHT, tried to pull too many tonal switches and mismatches together to tell an original, compelling story…..Indeed there was no Rabbit in his hat- this time… I. J. S.