Directed by Powell Robertson and Robert Patrick Young
Streaming now on Arrow or available on Blu-Ray
Leo finds himself on a road trip across the US with his sister Virginia who claims that a group who helped her get clean from drugs cursed her when she dared to leave their care. Bound to another human being, a male she’d never seen before the cursed ritual, she feels the pain that he does even though they are miles apart. Virginia theorises that in order to break free from the hex that has been placed upon them, she must find this mysterious man she’s psychically connected to and convinces her sibling to join her in desperate quest for freedom.
THRESHOLD is a bit different to your average ‘horror’ and is, in essence, a road trip movie with occult overtones that intends to take the viewer along for the ride to get to the truth of the story.
When we first meet Leo, he’s not in a good place. He’s clearly going through some disruption in his marriage with divorce on the cards and the last thing he needs to worry about is his sister who he believes is on drugs. When he finally comes to term with Virginia’s claims of being cursed, he makes the difficult decision to help his sister over visiting his two year old daughter who’s back home with his wife.
The road trip serves as a cleansing for the pair to come to terms with their own failings and accept responsibility for the path they have found themselves on. Realising they must forgive themselves in order to turn a corner, the duo confront some harsh truths about themselves and their own sibling relationship although some things from the past still seem too difficult to confront, as we see when Virginia uses a Ouija board and tries to speak to their deceased father.
You could say that in THRESHOLD nothing much happens which is sort of true if you’re looking at it from an action standpoint but in fact there’s lots of character development here between the two leads who largely improvised their parts remarkably well. They are very sympathetic people and getting to know them and be part of their banter as they share memories is quite an enjoyable experience. Going through the journey with the two of them and seeing how Leo converts from believing his sister is off her face on drugs to a concerned brother who realises he must do what he can to help her, is riveting. It’s clear that their relationship has been a troubled one over the years and that Leo holds some resentment over his sister, in particular her lifestyle choices, but the trip serves as a chance to mend and heal past wounds and bond upon their cherished childhood memories. No finer example of this is when Virginia recounts how she used to feel comforted and supported by her brother when he used to steal for her when they were kids, and so, in a bid to reconnect with happier times, he pinches some packets of crisps from a service station. Not the kind of thing Leo thought he’d be doing now he’s a respectable school teacher but I thought this was a great way of showing Leo displaying that he’ll do what it takes for his Virginia to know he’s there for her.
Virginia is a bit of an enigma. Though we want to believe in her tale of an occult rehab group, like Leo you wonder if this isn’t just an excuse or a grand illusion to disguise the fact she’s in trouble, be it on drugs or in some other way. As time goes by and we get to know the pair, this feeling lessens but I still got the impression that Virginia wasn’t being entirely truthful. Whilst there’s displays of her being involuntary in pain, there’s one particular scene that provides the nail in the coffin that she’s actually being 100% genuine about her claims of being hexed, and within touching distance of their destination, it’s not long before we find out what’s waiting for them.
The film boasts some wonderful cinematography that really captures the journey they find themselves on, both the physical road trip and the sibling reconciliation. It was only after the film I discovered that the entire movie was shot on iPhones. This is quite a remarkable feat and I hadn’t noticed that mobiles might have been responsible for what is quite a stylistically, well-made movie.
Even though it maintains a slow burn pace, not once did I clock-watch thanks to the leads, Joey Millin and Madison West, and their engaging personalities as Leo and Virginia. I was fully invested in their relationship, eager to work out the history between the pair as they travel across states and figure out how they’ve ended up in this spot. Despite its occult leanings, it lacks real horror elements so I’d probably label it as a dramatic thriller instead, albeit it from a horror angle. Though this is the case, it does well to invite the viewer in and make them complicit in their quest as events begin to intensify as they travel ever-closer to Virginia’s psychic connection.
Once it’s been established what kind of film THRESHOLD is, it’s kind of predictable in how it plays out and therefore I was waiting for the punchline. Despite this, it’s still an enjoyable movie, discovering and learning about the characters and their history throughout the journey. The culmination of the movie may disappoint some viewers but it worked well in my opinion, though I had to laugh as the credits rolled. It might not have the finale people wanted, myself included as I was left wanting more, but you can’t knock in which direction the filmmakers have gone. Might the film have worked better as a short film? Perhaps. However, even if it does lack enough meat on the bone to warrant its running time, the feature film plays out more as an experience in human nature and for that I think the directors have nailed it.