GORE IN THE STORE
THE STRINGS ***
Directed by Ryan Glover.
Starring Teagan Johnston, Jenna Schaefer, April Aliermo.
Horror, Canada, 94 minutes.
Streaming on Shudder from 23rd November.
Recovering from a recent failed relationship, singer Catherine packs her van with her instruments and drives across the country to her aunt’s remote cottage. Located near the shore, the chilly atmosphere seems to permeate through the house itself as Catherine struggles to come up with new material feeling the pressure not only from expectant agents and press but for her own well being struggling to come to terms with her recent breakup. After a photo shoot Catherine notices a spectral figure who may or may not be from the small towns past. As this figure starts to make its presence known more and more to Catherine, her own sanity starts to show signs of strain.
This spare low budget drama directed by Ryan Glover and co-written with Krista Dzialoszynski is small in scale and filmed with limited resources. The films slim premise is side-lined for the majority of the running time, choosing instead on following Catherine as she potters around playing with her keyboards striving for that creative breakthrough or taking various Zoom calls with her friend or manager. More of a mumblecore film than a horror, viewers looking for a straight-ahead supernatural horror story may find their patience tested with the complete absence of plot. It is a mood piece that feels more like a stretched out short or extra length music video that at times feels like a showcase for its star and her musical talents.
Glover manages to nail the tone and capture the unnerving feeling of staying in an unfamiliar house, wandering what exactly is causing all those creaks and groans. The chilly locations are also expertly captured by Glover’s atmospheric photography, resulting in one of the chilliest feeling films in quite some time.
There is a quality of slightness that cannot be avoided however, especially the longer and longer the film limps on towards its shrug of an ending. As a character study it fails to engage as Catherine is pretty much a blank slate from beginning to end, her much talked about musical talent only given centre stage at the films close in an impressive end credits sequence filmed in one shot that finally unleashes a long-supressed burst of emotion and even drama that the film sorely needs before this last-minute display.
Its cold atmosphere can only bring the film so far and its insistence on holding back until its closing moments marks THE STRINGS as a project that fails to capitalise on its already scant ingredients. If Johnston’s musical career takes off, which it well could from the evidence presented here, THE STRINGS may prove to be an interesting footnote in her career. Other than that, it feels a bit inessential, failing to inspire any extremes within the viewer.