07th Aug2015

Frightfest 2015: ‘Suspension’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Ellen MacNevin, Sage Brocklebank, Johannah Newmarch, Steve Richmond, Connor Fielding | Written by Kevin Mosley | Directed by Jeffrey Scott Lando

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It would seem I have a love/hate relationship with the work of director Jeffrey Lando. On the one hand he has helmed fantastic direct to DVD movies such as Insecticidal (yes I really rather enjoyed that – even if Lando himself has a little disdain for it on his official blog), but on the other he was the director on House of Bones, a film whose ending, at the time, frustrated me to no end. But that was five years ago and since then we’d had a slew of TV movies from Lando, including the superb Syfy channel horror movie Goblin: an underrated gem that didn’t really achieve the same dizzy heights of success as those “other” Syfy monster movies!

Lando’s latest, Suspension, is a Halloween-esque tale that tells the story of Emily Hanson, a timid teen tormeted at school who’s only escape is drawing graphic sketches depicting a crazed masked killer on a bloody rampage. Except the deranged maniac is her father who snapped eight years ago and is now locked away in a mental institution where Emily‚Äôs bullying classmates taunt she should be too! But on the anniversary of Emily’s fathers massacre, whilst all the “cool kids” at school throw a party and Emily babysits her mute little brother, Emily’s father returns and begins another killing spree.

There’s a real blurring of the lines between fact and fiction at work in Suspension (the clue is in the title). Emily’s vivid imagination, regarding a dominatrix who films her exploits for the internet who ends up visciously murdered by one of her “captors”, seemingly rendered in a beautiful muted-colour Chiaroscuro effect, is intercut with the films real world. As the two “worlds” come together Emily’s sketches become more colourful and the night creeps into the real world, muting the colours to such an extent that it becomes hard to distinguish where each part of the film begins and ends, leaving you questioning everything that you’re seeing.

And what sights there are to see! Suspension does not scrimp on the gore that’s for sure. After all this IS a slasher movie at heart, complete with a fantastic looking killer wielding and inordinate amount of sharps objects, used in the gruesomest of ways. Yet whilst the film follows the conventions of the genre, with all its tropes and cliches, Suspension also offers a fresh take on a tired old formula – for once it makes a change to watch what is essentially a slasher movie and NOT be able to just switch your brain off and enjoy the kills. The film could be enjoyed that way but then if you only wanted to enjoy half the movie…

For this is not your conventional slasher flick. Instead Suspension is both a unique look inside the fractured mind of a disturbed individual and a character study of a young girl traumatised by the actions of her father. Of course the idea of survivors guilt is nothing new in the genre – even straightforward slashers like the Friday the 13th series feature characters traumatised by the events of previous movies – but it’s thanks to star Ellen MacNevin, who delivers a tour-de-force performance as Emily, that this films final girl is so multi-faceted. Emily is at once shy, retiring and innocent; AND caring, motherly and strong. Yet you know under the surface there’s something not quite right about her, and that’s without seeing her gruesome sketchbook filled with grisly images of death! MacNevin is a real coup for the production, honestly I’m not sure Lando’s movie would be as successful without her.

Worlds apart from director Jeffrey Lando’s previous work, Suspension is a film that really does need to be seen to be appreciated. One of the most beautiful looking hack ‘n’ slash flicks you will ever see, this is a refreshing new take on a well-worn formula that revitalises the slasher movie in much the same way Wes Craven’s Scream did almost twenty years ago; whilst also subverting all that we know about this much-maligned, and often-denigrated, of horror genres. Unmissable.

***** 5/5

Suspension has its UK premiere on Monday 31st August, at 12.50pm in Discovery Screen 2, as part of this years London Film4 Frightfest.

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