When we first meet our protagonist, Dwight (Macon Blair), he’s a little worse for wear, sleeping rough in the passenger’s seat in his run-down car, and sporting an unkept image, with wild hair and a beard to match. Seemingly with little purpose to his existence, he finds his motivation when the man who murdered both of his parents is released from prison, as he sets off to kill the man responsible. With the act itself taking place in the bleak, murky setting of a public toilet, when Dwight’s deed is done he returns back to his estranged sister’s (Amy Hargreaves) abode, knowing fully well he is to protect his family from the imminent onslaught that beckons.
Though this film is set up in such a way whereby we anticipate a typical, archetypal slasher film, with gruesome deaths and a hero perpetrating them, unlike what we are usually exposed too – where every murder is committed free of guilt, doubt or severe implications – instead each individual death feels impactful and significant, reluctantly and contemplatively construed. As such a human touch is included in a genre so often devoid of one. Saulnier plays on that naturalistic approach, managing to make these quite fantastical, dramatic situations seem somewhat plausible, exploring these themes about as realistically as the genre allows. Of course events such as this do go on in real life, and this abides by that notion.
Blair makes for an absorbing lead, as a character so sympathetic and relatable, in spite of his actions. It derives from his ineffectual, pathetic approach to this dangerous livelihood which remains endearing throughout, and almost places us in his shoes, as he comes as this whole world as naively as we would. It’s clear that doesn’t enjoy murder, nor does he wish to carry it out, instead he feels almost obliged, with a sense of duty and family pride hanging over his shoulders as he plots his revenge, and you feel the emotional gravitas behind his acts as a result. It’s a wonderful performance too, while in the meantime it’s enjoyable to once again see Devin Ratray back on our screens following his role in Nebraska. It’s Buzz from Home Alone, after all. Talking of which, this film almost bears shades to the aforementioned kids’ title in how this is one man, who comes across as blissfully ignorant and childlike, coming up against a far more intimidating force, before it transpires that it’s the former who has somehow has the upper hand.
Suspenseful and intense in parts, darkly comic in others, there’s a brilliant tone to this memorable piece, as Saulnier manages to find the perfect middle ground between humour and morbidity. However, a small misgiving comes in the grand finale, as for a film that feels so distinctively unique throughout, a somewhat formulaic ending certainly leaves you wanting as the final credits roll.