Caught


You never know what you might have caught.

(2017) Horror (Cinedigm) Mickey Sumner, Ruben Crow, Cian Barry, April Pearson, Aaron Davis, Dave Mounfield. Directed by Jamie Patterson

 

There are doubtlessly readers old enough to remember the Grindhouse films of the 70s and 80s; movies that played in decrepit theaters and rarely saw the light of day in the local multiplex. They were mainly genre films and generally were the cinematic version of fast food; a bit greasy, not at all pretty to see and the consumer was better off not knowing too much about the product.

Caught is a British ode to the movies of that era and that classification. Set in 1972 in the wilds of the moors of Sussex, the film follows married journalists Julie (Sumner) – the writer – and Andrew (Crow) – the photographer. They’d noticed some sort of military activity going on in the normally peaceful neighboring moor and are trying to convince their London editor to run the story. The two work from home, Julie having sent off their son Toby (Davis) off to school while their infant daughter sleeps.

Then a strange couple approach. Introducing themselves as Mr. (Barry) and Mrs. (Pearson) Blair, the two wear neatly tidy matching suits (his and hers) and are impeccably coiffed. Because of the strangeness of their dress, Andrew at first mistakes them for religious proselytizers but they soon tell him they’re “from the moors” and have a few questions to ask. Andrew, thinking he and Julie can get some information out of them as well, invites them in. That turns out to be a very bad idea.

Most of the talking is done by Mr. Blair in stilted, almost robotic speech. He seems to have trouble with certain words and phrases, as if English is not his first language. As the questions grow more and more bizarre and Mr. Blair seems to have an unhealthy focus on when Toby would be home from school, the journalists at last realize something is amiss. By that time, it’s far too late.

Patterson certainly references grindhouse films of the era from the weird and unsettling atmosphere to the score that sounds like it was bought from a generic film score supplier. The former is welcome; the latter is not. Often the music is incongruously energetic when the overall tone of the scene is low-key, proving to be a jarring combination as if the composer hadn’t bothered to watch the film or the editor didn’t quite match up the score to the proper scene.

Fortunately there are some very satisfying performances from Barry, Pearson, Sumner and Crow. While none of them run away with the movie, the first two particularly portray quiet menace that suddenly morphs into screaming violence without warning while Sumner and Crow manage to give a realistic portrayal of terrified parents who realize that the people they’ve invited into their home are not normal at all.

Who the Blairs really are is never fully explained. Are they demonic in origin, or garden variety invading aliens? Are they merely psychotic? One of Andrew’s photographs has the answer but we are never allowed to see it; instead, we see the reaction of Andrew and Julie to it. Generally I applaud filmmakers brave enough to let the audience’s imagination fill in the blanks but some may find the lack of information infuriating.

The trailer for this film is much better than the film itself; Patterson and writers Dave Allsop and Alex Francis never really go anywhere with the concept. Patterson does a great job of building up the tension but then it seems to plateau. One of the biggest issues I had was that it never felt like Andrew and Julie ever had a shot at getting away so there’s a lot less dramatic tension than there might have been. When the ending comes, it seems pretty much inevitable.

That’s a shame because there are a lot of worthwhile elements here, but sadly not enough for me to recommend this with any enthusiasm. Fans of grindhouse movies of the 70s though might get a kick out of this one.

REASONS TO GO: This is a seriously weird movie with a very bizarre tone. The four lead actors deliver strong performances.
REASONS TO STAY: The violence was unconvincing. The retro-style score was often annoying..
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Sumner is the daughter of producer Trudie Styler and rock musician Sting of The Police.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/2/18: Rotten Tomatoes: 80% positive reviews. Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Strangers
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
A Suitable Girl

Pick of the Litter – March 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Ready Player One

(Warner Brothers) Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg. By the year 2045 the world has fallen into an epic malaise. There isn’t much hope, there isn’t much happiness – except in the Oasis, a virtual world that belongs to the most profitable corporation in the world. When the recently deceased founder of the company initiates a contest that will give gamers the opportunity to inherit control of the company and of the Oasis, it initiates a scramble to find the hidden Easter Egg and win the Oasis. However, there are forces at work that will stop at nothing to get that prize. Directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, the film is based on the pop culture masterpiece by Ernest Cline. March 29

INDEPENDENT PICKS

Foxtrot

(Sony Classics) Lior Ashkenazy, Sarah Adler, Yonathan Shiray, Shira Haas. At a desolate army outpost in the Israeli wilderness, tragedy strikes as it often will there. The family left behind of a young soldier stationed there must come to terms with their grief and loss in the wake of these events. This was Israel’s official submission for the 2018 Foreign Language Academy Award. March 2

Submission

(Great Point Media) Stanley Tucci, Kyra Sedgwick, Addison Timlin, Janeane Garofalo. A professor of writing at a university struggles with his own writer’s block and that creeping feeling that his best work and happiest days are behind him. He takes an interest in one of his students whose work is sensual and erotic, and who apparently has a major crush on him. However, he discovers that the attention comes at a terrible price. March 2

The Vanishing of Sidney Hall

(A24) Logan Lerman, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Monaghan. A gifted young writer creates a book that becomes a national phenomenon – and a national controversy – and then he disappears completely from view. A detective with murky motives goes on the trail of the missing author, digging up unsavory secrets about his past in the process. March 2

The Death of Stalin

(IFC) Steve Buscemi, Rupert Friend, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Palin. When the dictator Joseph Stalin died in 1953, the Soviet Union was plunged into chaos as various factions fought for control. Master satirist Armando Iannucci (In the Loop) turns these events into a wicked comedy that is both irreverent and perhaps, a look at what modern politics have devolved into.  March 9

Itzhak

(Greenwich) Itzhak Perlman, Toby Perlman, Alan Alda, Billy Joel. One of the greatest violinists to have ever lived certainly wasn’t  a sure bet for greatness when he started out. A polio victim, he fought to be taken seriously as a musician when teachers and others only saw his crutches. He rose nonetheless to become one of the greatest musicians of our time and a man whose passion for life is as infectious as his violin playing. March 9

The Forgiven

(Saban) Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser. After the end of apartheid in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu meets with a brutal murderer in a notorious prison; one seeking answers in a murder forgotten by the authorities, the other seeking redemption. Based on actual events, this story was a powderkeg of controversy in the early years of Nelson Mandela’s presidency; veteran director Roland Joffe was behind the camera for this one. March 9

Maineland

(Abramorama) Miao Wang. There has been an enormous wave of affluent children sent by their parents from mainland China to study at private schools in the United States. Some of the expectations of the kids, buoyed by American movies, are not terribly reasonable but the reality of their Chinese schooling sends them to a country far away from their home with great hopes nevertheless. March 16

Back to Burgundy

(Music Box) Pio Marmaï, Ana Girardot, François Civil, Jean-Marc Roulot. Master director Cédric Klapisch returns with this heartwarming tale of a young prodigal son, who left his family vineyard in Burgundy to see the world, returning when his father falls ill. Reuniting with his sister and brother, the three must rebuild their relationship and their trust in one another if they are to weather this crisis. March 23

Getting Grace

(Hannover House) Daniel Roebuck, Madelyn Dundon, Marsha Dietlein, Dana Ashbrook. A teenage girl who is in the final stages of terminal cancer befriends a socially awkward funeral director in an effort to find out what will happen to her after she dies. Her zest for life and unconventional attitude give him the courage to be himself. Roebuck, who plays the funeral director, also directed the film. March 23

Beauty and the Dogs

(Oscilloscope Laboratories) Mariam Al Ferjani, Ghanem Zrelli, Noomen Hamda, Mohamed Akkari. A film based on actual events, this follows the fight for justice by a young Tunisian woman who undergoes a terrifying ordeal after leaving a student party with a mysterious young man. Her battle will be uphill since the law favors the side of those who torment her. March 23

Caught

(Cinedigm/Great Point) Mickey Sumner, Cian Barry, April Pearson, Ruben Crow. A couple, both journalists, living in the idyllic English countryside, go out for a walk on the nearby moors and snap some pictures of apparent military activity there. Not too long afterwards, a strange couple dressed similarly show up at their door asking what seem to be polite questions at first but as the questions grow more bizarre and personal, they soon realize this isn’t an ordinary man and woman and the two journalists will have the scoop of the century – if they live to file it. March 30

The China Hustle

(Magnolia) Jed Rothstein, Alex Gibney. Wall Street is at it again. Chinese companies, based in America, have been attractive to investors since the Chinese economic boom of the last decade. Hoping to make up their losses from the 2008 recession, there has been heavy investment in these 500 or so companies. The trouble is that they are paper companies – they don’t actually produce anything. Fraud is being perpetrated on a massive scale and the government knows about it. As one of the financial experts says grimly, “Hold on to your wallets.” March 30