A Common Crime – Psychological Thriller

Categories
Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Movie Reviews Scary Movies and Series

A Common Crime (2021) is the new Argentinian psychological thriller with supernatural elements from director Francisco Márquez. Having not seen his directorial debut The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis (2016), I went into this piece relatively blind, albeit interested in the Argentine perspective of what a grounded horror/thriller should be. What I didn’t expect was that the film might reignite memories of one of my favorite, though sadly most neglected, directors.

From its opening scenes A Common Crime permeates a sparse realism that, while inducing a mild anxiety, also for me echoes the subtle and meticulous stylings of Austrian virtuoso Michael Haneke. With majority diegetic sound and very little music, viewers are made to feel a part of the world they are watching, that is if they can get past the apparent ‘slowness’ that it shares with Haneke’s work. Long, rigorous camera takes allow each scene and the performances within them to breathe, and the result is absolutely hypnotic. 

The plot is simple enough; sociology teacher Cecilia (Elisa Carricajo) has a maid whose son is constantly harassed by the police. One night Cecilia awakens to the boy knocking frantically at her door. Fear takes over and she merely hides in the shadows as some vague struggle seems to occur. When the boy shows up dead the next day Cecilia is plunged into a personal hell of paranoia and self-blame. Clear and definite themes of guilt and grief are explored within the tight, oddly-claustrophobic framing of Márquez’s world. Subtlety and detail are offered in bucketloads, along with a surprising amount of atmosphere from such a dark and restrained story.

That being said, this is no by-the-numbers thriller. Borderline experimental in presentation, you’d honestly be forgiven for growing tired of the repetitive psychological episodes A Common Crime descends into, or at least for hoping for some kind of payoff at the end of it all. That expectation came to me from repeated past viewings of Haneke’s beautifully bland stylings which almost always involved some kind of heavy shock punishment for letting his work seep into you. While trying to navigate the minefield of spoiler-free reviewing I can only say I was left with a confused, perhaps a little concerned, expression as the credits began to roll on this one. It took until the ending for me to realise that A Common Crime was nothing like I had expected. This is, on the one hand, a testament to its mesmerising nature, though that nature was primarily the thing which left me feeling lost on more than one occasion. 

A Common Crime movie poster featuring a woman screaming

Rather than make a full-blown psychological horror, Márquez shows a lot of discipline and moderation. A Common Crime sticks to it’s drama-fuelled thriller territory while using classic horror tools to enrich the presentation of its story. While most scares are longer-running and based around reactions, any up-front chills attack within enough space to enhance their effect. Even the score felt more dreamy than dread-inducing. That being said, the parts come together quite effectively as a whole. The unease I felt during its run time did reach that of films such as Hagazussa (2017) and Krisha (2015), as it relies more on its commitment to an uncanny feeling of irregularity that admirably holds up to the very end. 

A Common Crime is an honest, bold and intellectual drama which teeters on thriller territory in plot alone. Keeping enough to its chest to allow its mystery to envelop the viewer, it thrives in its own quiet world with barely an enhancement from clever editing or sound tricks, which in itself is an accomplishment. It may not be quite what you’re looking for, but give it time to sink in and you’ll be wanting more like it in a heartbeat.

The Bloodhound from Filmmaker Patrick Picard

Categories
Best Of Best of Movies Featured Horror Movie Reviews Scary Movies and Series

The Bloodhound is the directorial debut from Patrick Picard, and is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Fall of The House of Usher (1839). The story follows a disenchanted young man who visits his elusive childhood friend at the request of a beckoning letter, and the uncomfortable terrors that follow.

Clocking in at only 72 minutes, this psychological slow-burn explores a few of the themes and ideas of its inspirational ancestor, using a few key plot points from the short story to present its ideas, though for the most part remains its own film completely. Inclusions such as the titular, and likely metaphorical, antagonist himself and the modernised setting of the Luret mansion enable a fresh horror to be invoked from the work while key themes retain what made the original so chilling. 

These themes are as relevant now as they were almost two hundred years ago; social isolation, mental health (with obvious correlations between the two), and obligations felt through different relationships. Although ideas of friendship are explored in some emotional ways, a rather cold atmosphere permeates the picture, aided by uncannily stilted performances from its two leads. These, along with beautiful, yet clinically-focused camerawork give the impression of looking into another universe at times.

The Bloodhound horror movie poster featuring a drawing of 2 men and a red doorway

As mentioned, this is another slow one, but if you’ve read any of my previous articles you should almost expect that by now. Rather than rely on scenery or atmosphere The Bloodhound is primarily dialogue-driven, as expected from a classic story adaptation. And it’s expertly handled by the two leads Joe Adler and Liam Aikan, both in delivery and consistent conviction until the final scene. You feel every pinch of Francis’ (Aikan) discomfort at the whims of the eccentric and disturbed Jean Paul Luret (Adler) and the growing distrust by both of them as each narrative intricacy reveals itself. 

The Bloodhound plays out much like an upper-class The Lighthouse (2019) in many ways, with a modernised dash of Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina (2014). With plenty enough detail within its short runtime to keep the most perceptive viewer engaged. It appears almost play-like with its limited cast, allowing plenty of opportunity for them to bounce off each other and get the most out of plot and setting. It revels in the confusion of the viewer, being that much of the information ascertained is unreliable, which bleeds through into our viewing experience as we start to doubt the things we are seeing are real. Those favouring familiar plots and more immediate scares may become frustrated. 

Even Francis, our initially implied connection with sanity, begins to act oddly. Where most would have undoubtedly left the Luret household after many of JP’s increasingly hostile antics, Francis stays to enact his own motives, leaving us all the more alone in the Luret mansion. The chemistry between these two characters is so engrossing at times that any ‘horror scene’ that does fall upon us is made all the more jarring because of it. This elevates the film from effective psychological horror to a testament to the importance of strong acting and direction within the genre. 

The Bloodhound is an intense, atmospheric and darkly comedic tribute to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher, and a strong first entry for Patrick Picard. If his work continues to exude the same unsettling nihilistic macabre as this debut offering then I for one am in for the long haul.

Signup to our newsletter