The Weekly Creepy: Lost’s Raymonde & Twilight’s Kendrick go ‘Elsewhere’

11 Jun

weekly creepy

The Weekly Creepy is a new experiment here at Cinematropolis. The goal is to help expose you the audience to newer horror/thriller films that might have slipped under your radar. Dedicated to obscure, foreign and indie fare (as well as the glorious world of DTV), The Weekly Creepy will tackle a different pic each week, with reasons why it is or isn’t worth your precious time or money.

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“Small towns hide big secrets.”

Indeed. Small towns with big secrets are my favorite kind. Maybe the principal is brainwashing all the high school students, the town priest goes furry at the full-moon and chows down on soccer moms or the entire community is worshipping a star-ship they dug up at the edge of the woods. Any of those will do. Just remember that if you are gonna give us the small town, complete with the reliable stock characters, make sure that the secret is appropriately BIG. No one wants to spend an hour and half tiptoeing around the idea of clandestine groups and mysterious disappearances to find out that the whole thing is basically your typical one-man slasher gig.

Enter the indie horror Elsewhere, that assembles all the early pieces–the good girl/bad girl friendship, ignorant town jocks, the crazy recluse and the snarling, sinister cop–but forgets to make them all add up. Whats left is a middle of the road mystery that isn’t a challenge to sit through but doesn’t leave much of an impression once it’s over.

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It all starts off well enough, with a female voiceover asking “Have you ever had a secret?” and moving on to a creepy opening where a shadowy figure stands in an empty bus and listens to a voicemail message that is clearly someone’s mother worried and calling to inquire where they have been. We can’t see who the figure is, what they are doing or whether or not they are owner of the phone. Everything has a vagueness to it that shifts to unease. Its the only sequence in the entire movie that has anything remotely approaching dread. The screenwriters should have spent more time considering this scene and then built the remaining film around it. Instead, what we get  is a by the numbers first half that runs too long and a second that fails to pay off on what has come before.  

Anna Kendrick, who played Twilight’s high-school gossip Jessica Stanley, stars here as Sarah, the goodie two-shoes to Tania Raymonde’s Jillian, a full blown goth-slut (the movie practically tattoos this on her forehead with a little skull underneath) . Sarah and Jillian don’t have much in common, but they work together, along with the uber-shy Darla,  at a local general store/restaurant that doesn’t look like it can afford to employ one girl, let alone three.

Jillian is brash and aggressive but the bubbly Sarah insinuates herself into the angry loner’s life and they become fast friends. In fact, Jillian might be just a little too fast for Sarah. She shows Sarah her My Space page–an ode to sleaze in the form of an internet alias named DirtyGurrl who has quite a male following, that includes a number of the townies. When Jillian disappears one night, after endless talk of leaving town and mentioning a certain Mr. X from the web, Sarah gets a video message via her friend’s cell that shows the girl being accosted by a shadowy figure.

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When Jillian fails to surface after a few days, Sarah enlists the help of the nerdy, computer savvy Jasper, who  looks and sounds eerily like a teenage Luke Wilson. The duo uncover a necklace with intertwining snakes that Jillian had around her neck when Sarah last saw her. The necklace is quite the oddity; its more or less exactly the same thing Atreyu carried around in The Neverending Story. Odder still, Jillian isn’t the first girl to go missing or the first girl to posess one of the necklaces. Quicker than you can say Egyptian Snake Cult, it appears that everyone in the town has a secret to keep and skeletons hanging out of the closet.

Only, they don’t. Elsewhere starts to pull together a tale of interconnected corruption meets small-town debauchery when it drops all of that and pretty much boils down to a typical who-dunnit with a side character (really the most obvious choice once you see them) as the culprit. Before that, the movie has taken pains to show Sarah and Jasper doing plenty of junior sleuthing in an effort to save Jillian before its too late. There isn’t much in the way of genuine suspense or intrigue in the film, mostly because the movie fails to tighten its drama. There are entirely too many unecessary scenes, too many dangling threads and too many red herrings to allow the film to function like a fast-paced thriller(which it should be).

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In order for it to succeed as a smaller, slower character driven piece (which the structure suggests) it would have to change its  focus. Kendrick’s Sarah is run of the mill in almost every way and although she is loyal to Jillian far beyond the call of duty, the screenplay doesn’t make her very smart. Characters in horror thrillers are often stupid, but if there is enough else going on, no one notices. Without a riveting and gripping story or effective scare scenes, all we have left are Sarah and her quest. 

Elsewhere would have worked far better if the film had allowed Sarah to be kidnapped, leaving Raymonde’s Jillian behind to look for her friend and struggle with the reality that it was her irresponsible behavior that brought down the tragedy in the first place. Having a character who could be dynamic and grow, as well as morally guilty, would have been more interesting and we wouldn’t be so sure of her survival. Raymonde, although saddled with a tacky, half-baked role, is also the better performer. She doesn’t just look more exotic, she’s got more going on under the surface than Kendrick. She specialized in mysterious allure as Alex on Lost, and she does the same here. Alas, not giving her the spotlight means we lose track of her halfway through and spend the rest of the time with less interesting people.

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Elsewhere feels like it missed its relevent release date by about 11 years. It still has that quaint view of rebellious youth living in podunk towns and straining against the tedium by pursuing the arcane world of modern technology and the internets . Back in the late 90s, it was no longer the sexually active characters that bought it, it was the kid with the cell-phone or instant messenger who was prime target. God help you if you entered a chat room; you were spiraled ham for sure. It’s almost cheerfully optimistic in the way it thinks a promiscious high school girls’ greatest sin might be teasing guys on MySpace. Elsewhere even saves its most suspicious leanings for law enforcement and seemingly benign adult figures. I kept waiting for Mulder and Scully to show up and prove that the government was responsible for Jillian’s disappearance.

In the end, its a well made film that looks really good for a low budget indie and I was more than willing to go down the gothic, small-town thriller road but the movie gets in its own way. Fans of the two female leads, or mystery-hounds who aren’t too demanding of their entertainment might find things to like here. All others should look elsewhere.

Elsewhere is now available on DVD and Bluray.

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