UNCLE JOHN (IS REALLY, REALLY GOOD)
There are SO many things that can go wrong in the production of a feature film. JUST. SO. MANY. Even when nothing catastrophic happens, there are ephemeral aspects that can get screwed up–bad chemistry between the actors, visual style that doesn’t quite mesh with the subject, etc. This is true of every movie, and it is a miracle when it all comes together into a satisfying and artful whole. You know this, because otherwise EVERY movie would be your favorite.
The most astonishing miracle, for me, when it comes to film making, is when a first-time director knocks one out of the park. It hardly ever happens, but I’ll be damned if UNCLE JOHN, co-written and directed by Steven Piet, isn’t a perfect example of a stunning debut.
The Uncle John of the title is a middle-aged handyman/farmer in rural Wisconsin (played brilliantly by John Ashton), a seemingly mild-mannered pillar of the community type. We don’t find out about that side of him for a bit, since we watch him kill somebody in the opening scene. I don’t want to go too much into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that he had his reasons. We follow him as he disposes of the body, hangs out with his cronies at their local diner, and looks more and more unhinged as the weight of what he’s done begins to descend on him.
This story weaves back and forth with a truly well-done subplot of Uncle John’s only living kin, his nephew Ben (Alex Moffat), falling in love with a new coworker, Kate (Jenna Lyng), in Chicago. The chemistry between these two is off the charts, and never seems forced or lame. Both story lines collide when Ben and Kate make an unannounced drive out to see John, right as the brother of the murdered man, Danny (Ronnie Gene Blevins, also excellent) has maybe figured everything out.
One could maybe argue that UNCLE JOHN isn’t exactly a horror film, per se, that it’s more of a crime picture with perfectly escalating dread. Pshaw! This movie is much more intense than just about any studio horror crap of the last few years, and part of the reason is that it is note perfect in almost every regard. The acting, the script, the cinematography, editing, music, and art design are all basically flawless. The character work AND the thriller aspects are handled perfectly, which is rare just by itself. This movie is a miracle of chemistry and I am willing to bet money that this Steven Piet kid is gonna be HUGE.
My rating: A MUST WATCH
UNCLE JOHN is available on iTunes and Amazon Video, as in you could watch it right now if you wanted…
More terrifying tomfoolery tomorrow, friends…