While it still has some of the welcomed cliches of the serial killer and police procedural drama genres, it also does its best to dispense of them and try something different. The main one being that we, the audience, discover the identity of the killer fairly early on and from that moment the film jumps between FBI agent Rachel Cade (Emily Fradenburgh) trying to track him down and the killer, David (Joey Pollari) instigating a battle of wits with his kidnapped profiler (Gabriele Angieri).
It was apparently intended as a studio project but when financing fell through Tredwell-Owen relocated to Minnesota, got a fantastic, local cast together and a fairly extensive crew, for an indie production, and they all took the project on themselves.
The gamble appears to have paid off as a solid script, some excellent performances, beautifully real cinematography and strong production values has propelled this taught drama onto the big screen across America and onto DVD using a word of mouth, grass roots campaign that continues today with humble blogs like mine receiving screeners and doing reviews.
I am happy to report that this film was well worth the watch. I was impressed by its visual flair. The snowy farm land and freeways of Minnesota, while, of course, conjuring up some favourable comparisons to the Coen Brother's Fargo, also remained feeling very fresh, different and unique to this film. The set dressing and art direction of the farm house, where the majority of the action takes place, is pleasingly run down and filled with texture. It's also lit and shot in an evocative and vibrant way, creating depth and shadow, as well as a sense of unease. You can feel the bone chilling cold and the rough harsh surfaces of this unforgiving building.
The other half of the film is focussed on the FBI and local police's attempts to track them both down, lead by Emily Fradenburgh's dedicated and dead pan agent Cade. She is the determined centre of this story and it can be a thankless task because while Fradenburgh's performance is pleasingly assured, serious and earnest, she can, sometimes, lack an emotional core. There are a couple of scenes in the film, a throwaway plot strand about her father and the death of someone close, that maybe could've used some beefing up, so that she could show the wearing affect of her steadfast dedication to the job but those are small complaints overall.
The cast of characters she is surrounded by or interviews are also resoundingly great and you're never thrown from the film because of some unfortunate dialogue delivery that can, sadly, derail even the most well intentioned low budget film.
The writing is strong and the dialogue authentic. The procedural elements of the police work felt real and without the usual over-the-top flashes that TV so often employs. The same can be said for the back and forth dialogue in the farm house. The questions, the actions and the reactions were different from what you'd expect as, usually, they would be ramped up and accompanied by an overly dramatic score but here they play out naturally. This makes these scenes disconcerting as you can't second guess what will happen next, which adds to the tension. The script is definitely clever and never overly stylised.
The film makes excellent use of the budget and it feels like every penny is on screen in the right place. There are authentic police cars, a helicopter, a delivery van and a variety of locations. There are also some nice, gruesome effects and while it's not exactly excessively gory or exploitative, the deaths are uniquely twisted and macabre.
I have to admit that the overly serious tone, pacing and length of the film are not usually my cup of tea. I also found some of the dialogue and drama during the mid section of the film to be a little confusing as I'm not sure I bought strongly into the mental cat and mouse as much as I would've liked. The ending was good though and the ultimate irony well thought out and haunting.
This is definitely a film to track down on-demand or for rent as it really has a lot to offer and projects like this need to be supported.