When a poster tells you that a film is from the producer of The Blackcoat's Daughter and I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House then you should probably take note of that. It's not like seeing a poster for some big horror release that has a poster emblazoned with the words "from the cousin of the neighbour who once stood beside the director of It Follows in a queue for Starbucks". You should know from the off that The Strings is a slow, atmospheric, piece of work that will ask viewers to have a certain amount of patience.
And a lot of people will get to the end of this, if they reach the end, and think that their patience wasn't rewarded. There's nothing I can say to change that. In fact, there's nothing I can say to really sell people on this film. It's a strange one, a film with very little going for it (in some ways). But what it DOES have going for it, well, it plays to those strengths in a way that completely won me over.
Teagan Johnston plays Catherine, a young musician who travels to an isolated cottage to gather her thoughts and work on some new music. Her style is unique, requiring her to often remain alone and exploring her own mindset as she sets out to create new tunes. But it soon becomes apparent that she may not be as alone as she thinks she is. Or is she?
Directed by Ryan Glover, his second feature in the big chair, this is a film that certainly isn't lacking in atmosphere. Even when nothing is happening, you get the sense that something is about to creep you out. The screenplay, co-written by Glover and Krista Dzialoszynski, is minimal. So minimal, in fact, that it feels very much like it could have been largely improvised. I'll use that to give extra credit to the performances, however, and it's the cast that help Glover deliver something memorable and impressive.
There is more than one person cast in this movie, but you'd be forgiven for forgetting about anyone else while Johnston proves such a captivating screen presence. She gives a performance that is natural, in line with whatever energy is required for the scenes, and able to hold your attention even when it seems that there's nothing really happening. Johnston also provides a number of musical pieces that help to complement with visuals. It's an enjoyably unique and strange soundscape, although I should also mention that there's also a contribution to the film score by Adrian Ellis.
When The Strings started I thought I would end up having to tolerate it. I expected a low-key indie horror with no overt scares and nothing to firmly hold my interest for the duration. Thankfully, I got something that I felt was both rewarding and genuinely creepy at times (and there's at least one great jump scare). A lot of that is to do with the performance, in terms of both acting and music, by Johnston, but Glover deserves credit for turning any potential limitations into positives.
Recommended to anyone who doesn't mind a film that focuses on atmosphere and a strange feeling of "other" rather than easier scares and more straightforward plotting.
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