Written and directed by The McManus brothers (Kevin and Matthew), The Block Island Sound is an enjoyably atmospheric horror movie that ends up taking viewers through very familiar territory.
Harry (Chris Sheffield) is devastated after the sudden death of his father (Neville Archambault), which sends him on a downward spiral as he struggles to maintain his sanity while forces continually try to mess with his mind. Harry’s sister, Audrey (Michaela McManus), wants to help her brother, but she also starts to fear for the safety of her daughter, Emily (Matilda Lawler). Although people are trying to find some answers, or a “cure”, Harry seems destined to follow his father to the other side.
The best thing about The Block Island Sound is, undoubtedly and unsurprisingly, the sound design. There is an audio mix here that tries to unsettle at every turn, especially when viewers are placed closely alongside Harry as he struggles to keep a grasp on reality. But it’s not just about the sound, you get some fantastic scares dotted throughout, mainly from the sudden appearance of the character played by Archambault. Traditional scares are executed well, but the main thrust of the plot allows them to feel a bit different from genre standards that we have seen so many times before.
Sheffield does well in his role, often having to act like someone who has had his mind addled (which he has) while he fights against an invisible tormentor. McManus is easy to root for, especially as she finds herself torn between the love for her brother and the overriding need to keep her daughter safe. Archambault plays his part very effectively, allowing himself to be used as a vessel for some of the more discomforting audio moments, and everyone else, from Lawler to Jim Cummings, Ryan O’Flanagan, and Heidi Niedermeyer, puts in absolutely solid work.
Although not a debut from the McManus brothers, this feels like it. I don’t mean that as an insult. It is an interesting film, working with one main idea in a way that makes the most of its potential, and the budget is used well to deliver one or two impressive moments in a narrative that keeps you unnerved throughout.
Although things end with a fairly traditional resolution, The Block Island Sound is not a film for anyone wanting something in line with many other horror movies from recent years. It’s not an easy viewing, especially in the first half, but it’s an interesting and rewarding one.
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