*Editor’s note: We’d like to officially welcome Norberto Aguiar to the ICONS OF FRIGHT team! Here is his first review. *
Every 40 seconds a person goes missing.
Could you function if your cellphone was taking from you? No texting. No facebook. No talking on the phone. Not being available for anyone to get a hold of you. Some would be fine, but ask today’s younger generation that rely and are so dependent on all their communicative gadgets and technology and they would freak out and tighten their grip on their phones. As if their cellphones were a working part of their body and being. Today’s youth would feel they couldn’t survive without it. Could they blame themselves? We are living in a time where more and more payphones/house phones are becoming extinct. You walk in a café or ride a bus and instead of hearing conversations & the sound of human connections or people book reading, you see faces hiding behind multiple laptops, and people with their heads slightly tilted down with fingers texting at rapid speed and their attention on their phone, but lost to the world around them! “There are more to relationships than pressing buttons” , a great quote said by Nancy (Hallie Todd) in the beginning credits of the film.
This is the genius angle and issue that director Glenn Withrow provokes us with in the surprisingly intense survival chiller, THE MOORING! An overlooked horror gem that asks the question, would teenagers be more fit to survive if never exposed to the world of cellphones and their many attributes or does technology at hand strip away from their natural survival and animal instincts, if we were to be thrown in a fight or die situation and we are the hunted? Director Glenn Withrow gives us the negative outcome to that reality.
THE MOORING is about a group of young teenage girls whos personal addictions to their cellphones has caused problems to their lives and those around them. From ridiculous over a thousand dollar phone bills to hacking/cyber bullying to causing fatal car accidents due to being on their phones. They are taken under the care of counselor/therapist Nancy (Hallie Todd) who’s goal is to take these girls away from technology and into the nature where they can heal and have real human connections and bonds and learn about themselves and enjoy life without the reliance of technology. Nancy takes the group of girls on a houseboat on a river within the beautiful Idaho wilderness and they take on writing/venting sessions, learn the art of rope knotting, and bonding ensues.When the boat engine shows signs of trouble, Nancy finds a mooring to settle the houseboat so she can have the girls set up camp and enjoy the fun in camping, while she follows up on the boats engine problem later. Everything is peachy until a strangers boat comes in to share the same mooring and from that moment on a disturbance begins and escalates slowly in a tense and suspensful pace until soon enough the girls find themselves being chased and hunted relentlessly by an sadistic, psychotic couple who are out for blood.
What makes THE MOORING standout from being a typical slasher/horror film is the cast! The group of teen girls are actually played by REAL teenage girls, instead of ditsy Hollywood actresses in their mid-twenties. This works because they look and act like real high school girls and give great, authentic performances. Thomas Wilson Brown and Brooklyn Tate’s intense performances as the ruthless killer couple, Richard and Mickey is also a standout in the film. Thomas Wilson Brown is perfect as the sadistic killer, Richard. Watching his maddening performance kept me at edge the whole second half of the film until the very end.
This is director Glenn Withrow’s first treading into the horror genre and its so impressive how he tackled it with great care and ease focusing on character development in the first half and then slowly getting under your skin and taking the viewers comfort and replacing it with building fear, dread and tension in the last half. You can sense the inspiration from such horror classics as THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT and I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE but instead of the violence being exploitive and gory, and in your face, Withrow takes a Hitchcock approach to the violence, which I loved. It was nice for a change watching a slasher film that left much to the imagination, embracing the idea that what’s seen less is more rewarding in the long run. For those expecting raw and bloody torturous kills are most likely going to be disappointed, but don’t let that stray you away because, THE MOORING does disturb and has its share of scares in a refreshing fashion. There’s a uncomfortable disturbing scene that involves the killer and one of the teen girls who’s asthmatic where he toys and basks in the joys of watching her suffer, letting her know her life is in his hands. What’s insane is that screenplay was written not only by Glenn Withrow and his wife Hallie Todd, who plays Nancy in the film, but it was also co –written by their 15 year old daughter as well, which I think is pretty damn awesome!!
Cheers to Cinematographer Charles DeRosa who works wonders for the film with gorgeous footage of the Idaho backwoods wilderness. There are amazing jaw-dropping shots in the film that seem technically minimal, but fulfilling to the mind and eye. One particularly great shot is one of the girls camp on a moonless night amongst the vast blackened woods reflecting on the river like a tiny flame in a large dark room. It creates a sense of how isolated the girls are from technology and civilization. My favorite is a gorgeous wide still shot of a horrifying moment that happens on a cliff ,but No spoiler here.
THE MOORING isn’t a perfect film. There are some plot holes and questions unanswered. I would have loved more character development on the killers Richard and Mickey. I wanted to know about Richard’s past and where his anger streamed from. I also wanted to know more about Mickey and how her relationship with Richard manifested, but when it comes down to it, none of this really matters, because THE MOORING is a very good horror/thriller that delivers in unexpected ways. You actually feel for the characters, the killers are realistic and could exist in present time, its beautifully shot, the suspense and terror feels genuine, the violence is brutal, but not gory, acting is top-notch and it ends with a great little twist that will surprise you. I loved it! The way Withrow mixes in social issues with the slasher/horror formula tied in with great direction is a gift in itself for the viewer. Highly recommended!
THE MOORING is now available on DVD and on Netflix Via LIONSGATE.