September 30, 2018

AFRAID and the Bursting Bag
Starring Alanna Masterton, George Byrne. Directed by Jason Goldberg. (2018/125 min).


Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

There's a scene at the half-way point of Afraid that's truly terrifying. Like the best psychological horror films, what makes it so scary is our inherent awareness of its actual plausibility. The scene takes place in a kitchen, where one of the main characters is struggling to pull open a sealed bag. Exerting a bit too much effort, the bag bursts open, sending its contents flying all over the kitchen.

Whenever I struggle to pull open a bag of Doritos or package of salad mix, I  always fear that very thing happening. While I've been fortunate to avoid such a catastrophe, one of my daughters wasn't so lucky. Not too long ago, a  one-pound bag of Skittles exploded in her hands. Months later, our vacuum cleaner still sucks-up an occasional stray candy.

In reality, I suppose flying food wouldn't be as unnerving as the prospect of staying in a cabin filled with surveillance cameras while a tech-savvy lunatic tracks your every move. From an entertainment perspective, however, watching an entire movie through those same cameras tends to be rather tedious.

The most depressing room of all time.
Alana Masterton and George Byrne are a young couple who rent a cabin in the remote woods (of course). Unfortunately for them, every room and the surrounding area is rigged with cameras by an unseen stalker, who's fixated on Alana's character. Not only that, he's able to hack into her phone and social media pages to learn her secrets, none of which are all that interesting. In fact, even though these revelations are intended as a plot device to create tension, all they really do make it obvious who's behind it all...long before the climactic reveal.

Afraid is excruciatingly slow-going at times, exacerbated by the fact we're forced to watch two dull characters almost exclusively through stationary cameras. Much of what transpires is seen from a distance, from the point-of-view of whoever is watching them, which negates a lot of the suspense. In a way, this tends to make it more of an endurance test than your typical found footage film. I'm not a fan of found-footage, but at-least a shaky, hand-held camera creates some movement.

While the film is called Afraid, the title card in the end-credits identifies it as 'Interference,' and despite the DVD box listing the running time at 125 minutes, it's actually about 85, which is ultimately a good thing. The film would have been insufferable at two hours. An earnest performance by The Walking Dead's Alanna Masterton isn't enough to recommend it, nor is the name of Jason Goldberg, the guy who created the long-running MTV show, Punk'd. As a first-time director, he stays true to his roots, which is unfortunate. 

There's certainly nothing else in the film as suspenseful or scary as that bursting bag.


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