As horror movies go, this was a great thriller. To review this, there are several elements one has to look at closely. The first is the cast. Maria Bello si amazing. Always amazing. The down-to earth actress has held her own on screen against Big Boys like Mel Gibson (Payback), Johnny Depp (Secret Window), and Viggo Mortensen (History of Violence). She is by far one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets, although after recent films, I doubt she’ll stay that way for long. She brings a strength and natural ability to the screen not seen since Brando. She down shifts from heartbroken mother to maniacally obsessive in a matter of seconds and makes it completely believable. Next is veteran Sheffield actor Sean Bean. Whether he’s playing a sadistic Kidnapper (Don’t say a word) or a supportive husband (North Country), it’s always a consistent performance. He is a fine actor who, like Bello, doesn’t receive the recognition his performances often deserve. He is brilliant as usual in his portrayal of a devastated father searching for his daughter. Although, his character is the poor apathetic parent in the way they interact with Abril, which brings us to the kids. Abigail Stone, who plays Abril, is disturbing, haunting, creepy and brilliant. They way she plays off the parent’s different personalities is hypnotizing. She is a weak and helpless child with James but snide and slightly arrogant with Adele. That may have been good writing, but her acting is what makes it hard to look away. As for the other child actor, Sophie Stuckey, I wish I could say I was as riveted by her, but sadly, hers is the only performance I have no praise for. Her portrayal of teen angst played more like a TV movie of the week. For a better performance, check her out in Close you Eyes opposite Goran Visnjic.
The second thing to look at is the script itself. Without a good script, even the best performance would be hailed as shite. In this case, there was a great script. It was well thought out and crafted with all it’s twist’s in the right places. I once read a comment that said “American movie goers are spoiled. They like everything spelled out for them neatly and all problems solved in 2 hours”. I think it might true after reading several reviews of this film. As an American, I have to say I prefer movies that make me think and force me to follow an actual plot. Some reviews have compared this to “The Grudge” and “The Ring”, not true at all. I found those movies weak and to be honest lacking in all areas. But this is not about them and to compare this to them would be incorrect. This movie boasted a script for adults, to be played out by strong actors. Naomi Watts was empty and vapid and let’s not even start with Sarah Michele Gellar. The ending, particularly, is not like any of those movies. It’s more “Sixth Sense” than anything. The writer relied more on the actor’s reaction than their words which may be why some were confused at times. But if you pay attention, like when you were in school, you don’t need dialogue. Bean and Bello are amazing in conveying emotions with their faces. So good that a mere glance can tell you more than hundred words.
The technical aspect is the last thing to examine. Amazing Welsh landscape with a cloudy, grayish hue give this movie a looming feel. The change from the grayish gloom to the brash orange and reds for the Annwn scenes is a good contrast to show us the difference in the worlds. Also, the use of music and sound effects is also equally effective in conveying the angst in both Abril and the family.
All in all, a very good movie which, for an adapted novel (Sheep by Simon Maginn), was pretty dark and thrilling. A good script combined with good acting and good film-making make for an enjoyable film. But then again…