Sweetheart

This movie is two thirds of a great horror movie. It has a great setup and a tremendous first act. It falls apart as more characters are introduced and the expansive narrative is flatten out in order to serve the conventions of the genre.

The movie opens with Jenn, played by Kiersey Clemons, as she washes up on shore of a small deserted island in the middle of nowhere. She soon realizes that she is not alone on the island. But before she gets into all of that, the movie is essentially a remake of Cast Away. She struggles to survive on the island. She makes fire, finds shelter, and works hard for her food. When a plane flies overhead, she uses one of her few flares to signal for help. In the glow of the flare she sees the outline of something huge and sinister heading her way. This is the best shot of the movie. It is haunting and frightening. Unfortunately it is the beginning and end of the greatness of the movie.

Kiersey Clemons is great in the opening. It is an entirely silent role in which she has to communicate everything her character is going through nonverbally. Her struggle is real and her innovations and shortcomings are exposed in entertaining detail. However, when a pair of other individuals wash up on shore, the movie falls apart. Her wonderful performance at the outset becomes stilted and wooden with the addition of dialogue. It doesn’t have to be this way. She has been great in other things, but here it’s pretty rough. The couple that washes up on shore is Lucas, played terribly by Emory Cohen, and Mia, played by Hannah Morgan-Lawrence also bad.

Once dialogue is introduced, the movie comes crashing down. The dialogue is bad, and the acting doesn’t help it along. It is all stilted dialogue delivered in a wooden fashion. It’s like Star Wars prequel levels of bad here. This isn’t entirely the fault of the actors. They have all been good in other roles. Emory Cohen for instance is wonderful in the movie Brooklyn. (Seriously go watch Brooklyn. It’s awesome.) But here he is like a robot approximating human speech for the first time.

The introduction of dialogue also messes with what was a wonderful horror survival story. Jenn is doing her best to survive each night as the monster emerges from the water to wreak havoc. He comes up with plans and schemes in order to discover more about the monster and figure out ways to survive. This is all played in the best possible way. The monster is kept in shadow and only shown fleetingly. It builds the tension and suspense as to the monsters appearance and keeps it scary through mystery. One excellent scene involves Jenn spending the night in a hollowed out log. She is terrorized through the night by the monster. It’s a great bit of filmmaking and acting.

However, the film flips a switch and just turns bad. It adds new story elements that totally derail the simplicity of the earlier moments. It over explains things in an awkward way. It shows too much of the monster making it look like a man in a rubber suit which gives off real Power Rangers bad guys vibes. The first hour is great. The final half hour is bad.

Overall, it’s two thirds my cup of tea. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. There are worse movies you could be watching this month. Zombeavers being one of them. However, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this one either. It’s only okay. B

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