Greetings again from the darkness. Positioned as a “thriller”, this Oak Cliff Film Festival entry is more psychological study than fright-fest or whodunit. Co-written and co-directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, the film takes the rare and welcome approach of placing twenty-something females in the role of accidental trouble-makers who must make morally-clouded decisions under stress.
Home for the holidays, three long-time friends are hanging out together on Christmas Eve – just drinking wine, playing Scrabble, smoking pot, and teasing each other. After a “dark” opening featuring a frantic 911 call, the film is allowed to breathe for the next 15- 20 minutes as we get to know the personalities of Holly (Helen Rogers), Cali (Alexandra Turshen), and Mel (Lauren Molina). Their banter … and the fallout from triple word “satin” … provide us with the insight to connect with each of the ladies.
Seeking a chance to cut loose and enjoy their “girl time”, they head over to a mansion supposedly belonging to an uncle of one of the girls. Booze, video games, laughing and dancing seem innocent enough until Arthur the groundskeeper (Larry Fessenden) enters the house and confronts the girls. While it sounds like the set-up to this week’s horror film, it has more in common with Very Bad Things (1998). A tragic accident forces the girls into discussions and decision-making that’s not usually associated with Christmas Eve.
What keeps our interest isn’t so much the situation, it’s the fact that we are rarely exposed to on screen women in such a mess. The varying female personalities negotiate the next best steps and the alpha in the group may or may not be the smartest (remember Scrabble!). With their own morals pushing and pulling their thoughts, it’s fascinating that a trumped up attempted-rape accusation (and groan inducing evidence tampering) may be their best defense.
After a couple of twists, it’s interesting to see how far one’s moral compass can be adjusted for the sake of self-preservation, and to see how the bond’s of friendship can be either a life preserver or cement boots. Don’t look to this for your Friday night fright … though there is one jump-inducing moment … but rather view it as a chance to ask yourself how you would react in such an accidentally tragic turn of events.
watch the trailer: