Review by: Dave Wain
Stars: Lisa Friedrich, Micheal Foulk, Dustin Runnels
Written by: Brandon Stroud, Destiny D. Talley (story)
UK Certification: n/a
Runtime: 93 minutes
Directed by: Lex Lybrand
UK Release Date: n/a
I didn’t expect for fate and film criticism integrity to be part of the first line of one of this week’s reviews, but from time to time a jigsaw will fall into place that has you scratching your head and wondering “what are the odds?”. Lex Lybrand – I’m not familiar with the name, but my friend and fellow UKHS scribe Matty Budrewicz is. He told me last week that he has exchanged the occasional email with Lex and of course also had the privilege of interviewing him for UKHS back in January. Matty had been lucky enough to catch Lex’s new movie ‘Meet Me There’, described as “an art film set in a horror universe”, but was reluctant to review it as he felt a fresh pair of eyes could offer perhaps a more critical perspective to this intriguing indie picture. So here we are, and those crow’s feet lined eyes belong to me…
A five minute prologue begins the film, and it’s one that grabs you by the throat and then pokes you in the eye with its stark originality. Lybrand stated in his interview with Matty that despite having an appreciation of horror, he really isn’t an aficionado, and with Meet Me There that level of ‘naivety’ with the genre enables him to deliver a level of sustained ingenuity. With a pumping soundtrack over the opening credits, we’re introduced to Ada (Lisa Friedrich) and Calvin (Micheal Foulk), a regular couple in their late twenties who we find kissing passionately on their bed and are well on the way to having sex. Before they do so, we find Ada recoiling and suddenly going off the idea of intimacy for as yet undisclosed reasons.
Their ongoing sexual dysfunction has lead them to seek the help of a psychiatrist who manages to glean that while Calvin had a pretty regular childhood to which he has vivid memories of, Ada struggles to recall even the most basic of memories from her early years. The psychiatrist suggests that a very likely cause of Ada’s reluctance to engage in intercourse could well stem from her childhood, specifically certain experiences that her memory is deliberately trying to protect her from. Later on the couple discuss the events of the day while Ada goes through some old photographs. They decide that the only way to combat this situation is to visit Ada’s home state of Oklahoma with the hope of unearthing the root of her issues, but once there they find her old house no longer exists and a brief stay with her aunt only sets about a chain of unnerving situations.
Meet Me There is an absolute treat for anyone that has any kind of affection for good, honest independent horror. With a lot of indie movies you tend to be a little apologetic when recommending them – “yeah, the acting is a little cringe, but…” or “yeah, the photography is a little uneven, but…” – however, with Lybrand’s feature the difficulty lies with trying to keep your praise in check when the initial response would be to exalt it with a feverish level of excitement. The two lead actors (Friedrich and Foulk) are absolutely magnificent… why? because they’re normal, everyday people. In a break from the norm of casting a jock and a cheerleader in seemingly every horror movie with a couple as its focal point, this movie spends time in allowing us to get to know Ada and Calvin. Not only that, but they have a relationship that exudes realism. For example, at the start of the film when Calvin feels rejected by Ada for spurning his advances he doesn’t reject her or treat her with disdain – he supports her. A simple moment like this enables the characters to grow immeasurably, and the empathy and feeling you have towards them is established with aplomb.
The film does take time in establishing a level of menace that would normally be attributed to a horror movie. Nearly the first half of the movie is comprised of dialogue which could well frustrate people who have been conditioned towards ADHD genre movies. For me though this level of pacing was welcome, and the gradual increase in tension and atmosphere in the latter stages is expertly handled. The photography in the film belies the film’s presumed budget and the director’s use of black and white is incorporated appropriately. A deep nod of respect for the music in the film also, which manages to blend traditional hymns with some great contemporary bands – with a fist pump of respect for the use of the track ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’ from The Wonder Years album ‘The Greatest Generation’. Tune.
Lex Lybrand told Matty that he was pretty confident that the film would be able to secure some worldwide distribution deals, and I really hope that will be the case. We were only speaking the other day about the cynical excuses for horror movies that dominate the release schedules in the UK and shared an air of despondency over the lack of solid indie titles that are able infiltrate the market place. THIS though, is what we need, and it should serve as a template for what independent horror filmmakers should seek to create.
8 out of 10