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Saturday, June 17, 2017

THE PASSING -- Movie Review by Porfle

The achingly melancholy Welsh psychological chiller THE PASSING (2015) comes as a quiet reminder that contemporary horror doesn't need flashy effects, loud noises, or a short-attention-span pace to draw us in and give us that unsettling, creeped-out feeling.

In fact, director Gareth Bryn and writer Ed Talfan seem determined from the very start to give this dark backwoods tale the smoldering quality of a slow-burning hearth fire. 

Stanley (Mark Lewis Jones), a very simple man who lives alone on his isolated farm and works hard to maintain a meager existence, is first seen in a pit, digging mud and raising it out in buckets by rope.  Whatever he's doing, it's the very definition of "joyless drudgery", yet we get the feeling he's never known any other life.

Thus, when he ventures into the woods surrounding his house and comes across a wrecked car at the river's edge, with a teenaged boy and girl inside, their sudden encroachment into his hermetically-sealed world will bring both severe culture shock and a growing emotional unrest.

As Stanley quietly and dutifully nurses the girl's injuries, Sara (Annes Elwy) begins to feel a mutual empathy with him and an affinity for his lifestyle.  The boy, Iwan (Dyfan Dwyfor), an illicit lover with whom she is on the run, will eventually agree that this would be a good place for them to stay and perhaps even settle down. 

This proves an unwise arrangement the closer Sara is drawn to Stanley and the more jealous Iwan becomes.  The painfully insecure Stanley finds himself helplessly drawn into a triangle that threatens to end in violence, especially after Iwan comes across a cache of whiskey left behind by Stanley's father and quickly succumbs to his baser impulses.

All of this would provide sufficient drama, yet THE PASSING goes beyond this steamy rural intrigue and into the realm of the supernatural when Sara begins to have fleeting glimpses of a phantom figure in and around the house.  She also finds physical evidence of its presence, both in the musty attic and in her own bedroom. 

This aspect of the story is done with such subtlety that we're never quite sure whether or not it's real.  But Sara's visions of death and drowning, made worse after Stanley relates a sad tale of tragic death in his own family, keep reoccurring with increasing intensity until finally, in a shocking twist, all is revealed. 

The film offers gorgeous, moody photography with a very haunting sort of antique atmosphere you could cut with a knife (while taking place in the present day, the story is a "period piece" whenever we're in Stanley's dimly-lit house) and lots of contemplative "pillow" shots that are artistically composed.

In some scenes there's an almost magical beauty to the deep, water-bedecked flora and rolling hills surrounding the farmhouse.  The interiors, by contrast, are a study in oppressive austerity and emotional desolation as we observe Stanley going about his everyday routine.

Director Bryn's very deliberate pace invites us to engage fully with the narrative rather than simply observing it.  Performances by the three-member cast are fine and thoroughly convincing (with dialogue in Welsh with subtitles).  A haunting New Age (ish) musical score enhances it all. 

Before long, we know that either something supernatural is wandering through THE PASSING or that there's something else equally strange going on.  With an ever-tightening grip, this bitterly-curdled psychodrama slowly creeps its way into our blood and ends with a cold shiver. 

Available in North America and across the globe on major platforms such as iTunes, Amazon Instant, Seed & Spark, Google Play, Sony PSN, X-Box Live, Vudu, Vimeo on Demand, Steam, Roku, Crackle, Hoopla and Tubi TV

Cable VOD to follow

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