A horror film full of familiar tropes and predictable moments, especially for anyone who has seen more than a handful of other horror films, Sam Was Here is also a pretty great little viewing experience, with a number of strange and unsettling moments throughout that help to make it stand out.
Rusty Joiner plays Sam, a man who is wandering around a fairly deserted area as he tries to find people to sell to. Nobody is answering doors, initially, and then he starts to encounter people who are outright hostile to him. And there's a very odd show on the radio that starts to become harder to ignore.
The only feature, to date, from Christophe Deroo, who co-wrote the screenplay with first-timer Clement Tuffreau, this is a very well crafted exercise in oddness and atmosphere, a slow-burn horror that takes a turn at the halfway point into something more intense, with that intensity growing and growing right up until the final, disturbing, scenes.
Joiner is very good in the lead role, often the only person onscreen for many of the scenes. Although we don't get to know too much about his character, Joiner plays him with just the right amount of exasperation and fading optimism. He also does well in showing his confusion and fear as the situation he finds himself in gets stranger and stranger. He's not the only person in the movie (I'll also mention Rhoda Pell and Sigrid la Chapelle) but he may as well be, considering how many of the scenes he ends up carrying on his shoulders and how much of the film is more about his state of mind than the environment he is travelling through.
I can't quite explain why this worked on me as well as it did, and that is a failing on my part (although sometimes you review a film and end up just trying to convey the mood of the piece), but I can try to convince others to give this their time. Not much time either. It clocks in at about 75 minutes. Visually stylish, and aurally pleasing too (there's a cracking synth score from Christine, someone I am unfamiliar with and would like to hear more from), what starts off as a familiar type of thriller creeps and slithers steadily into the realm of pure horror. I'm not sure if others will react in the same way that I did but the finale of this film had me squirming uncomfortably in my seat, and I like to think of myself as a fairly hardened horror fan.
Enjoyably ambiguous, although I have my own set interpretation of events, and gritty and visceral, Sam Was Here is a film well worth checking out. And I'll be seeking out any future projects that Deroo and/or Tuffreau are involved with.
It seems to be streaming only, just now anyway, so feel free to click on any advert or link on this here blog and shop until you drop.