Brian Barnes’ The Redeeming makes its world debut at Horror-on-Sea festival.
Let’s bitch it out…
Synopsis: Joyce (Tracey Ann Wood), a disturbed single mother confronts John (Ryan Wichert), a mysterious stranger and the echoes of her past to protect her home.
Recipe for a successful thriller:
- Trap two strangers in an abandoned location.
- Introduce dire circumstances, secrets and paranoia.
- Slowly increase tension and mistrust.
- Bring to a head, preferably with multiple weapons.
This set of events is The Redeeming in a pinch. Working off of a screenplay from Roger Thomas, the latest feature from director Brian Barnes pits two strangers against each other in a remote cabin during a storm. With no power, very little food and plenty of secrets, the pair must navigate their way through the night – even though it’s clear that neither party is being entirely truthful about the circumstances that led them there.
Part of what’s interesting about the film is the lack of audience surrogate. Although we’re introduced to Tracey Ann Wood’s Joyce first (and we frequently follow her when she excuses herself for moments of privacy), it’s clear very early on that Joyce is a little…off. She talks to herself, has memory lapses and is prone to irrational fits of anger. She struggles to connect with her houseguest, alternating between overly affectionate and irritable; at times, she is too familiar and at others, she actively distances herself.
John, meanwhile, seems like the poor stranger who has stumbled upon the home of a madwoman, but his unwillingness to divulge information and the random assortment of items contained in his backpack are definite red flags. Although his injured arm and inability to defend himself lend themselves to comparisons of Misery, it is clear that John is not just a helpless victim.
The Redeeming often feels like a stageplay, in that the action is confined to a pair of actors and a few locations. The whole film revolves around the interplay between the two leads and the discovery of their secrets. Barnes wisely keeps the focus on Ann Wood and Wichert, adopting an understated (read: unobtrusive) directorial approach for the majority of the film so that his performers shine. When interspersed flashbacks and loud sound cues increase as the film approaches its climax, it’s a tell-tale sign that the truth about Joyce and John’s relationship is about to be revealed (savvy viewers will decipher the truth long before the fire poker and the gun come out). And while the protracted denouement feels a little laborious, Ann Wood sells the finale with conviction, leading to a surprisingly heartwarming ending.
The Bottom Line: The Redeeming is an entertaining mystery/thriller that maximizes strong performances from its two leads. It’s not revolutionary, but it works.
For more information on Horror-on-Sea film festival, click here.