TWO STEP – A SMALL, DARK GEM
Two things that never cease to excite me are 1) finding “hidden treasure” movies that maybe fell through the cracks but are GREAT, and, 2) finding non-horror genre movies that could serve as mini film schools for horror filmmakers, as far as tension, dread, and character-based story.
The 2014 film TWO STEP is just such a gem (and can be watched this very moment on Netflix). Written and directed by Alex R. Johnson, it is more of a crime story and character study than a horror piece, but the actions of the antagonist are so horrific, the protagonists are so appealing, that I was left wrung out by the end. It is a low key, yet sharp and dark, winner.
James (Skyy Moore) is a young man who lost his parents in an accident just a few years before, and has now lost his beloved grandmother, his only other kin. He’s had trouble at college and drops out to take up residence in her small suburban Texas home, which he inherits. Aimless, full of self-hate and sorrow, James is an immediately lovable character, who you just want to feed and tuck in.
The first part of the film is told in parallel as James attempts to pick up the pieces and befriends a middle-aged neighbor, Dot (Beth Broderick), who teaches line dancing and is a bit of a barfly. The other thread of the story follows Webb (James Landry Hébert), a charismatic convict first seen running a phone scam from jail, as he is released and tries to pick up the pieces with his ex-girlfriend and old crime boss. Hébert’s performance is amazing, as we end up both loathing Webb, andfeeling a kind of empathy for him. He is just about a minute away from a full on freak out.
I don’t want to give anymore away here, except that the gentle James and Dot are on a collision course with the manic ball of violence that is Webb in full lashing out mode. Everything that happens feels very REAL, with barely a forced moment in the whole film. The acting is uniformly great, and as I mentioned before, the tension builds and boils over by the end.
If you like movies that value the humanity of their characters, and aren’t afraid to realistically portray a dark story (there is no feeling of “entertaining” violence in this thing), then I think you’ll agree TWO STEP is a minor masterpiece.
MY RATING: A COLLISION COURSE WITH BRILLIANCE