Suspension finds teenager Emily Hanson still haunted by the actions of her father Tom, who went on a murdering rampage several years earlier. Emily is looked down upon by her teachers and tormented by the popular girls at her school, only finding solace in spending time with her mute little brother Jeremy, and expressing herself through gruesome comics about her father. On a night that Emily is home alone with Jeremy, another bloody rampage begins, and it seems that her father is back to finish what he started.
Returning from a five-year hiatus and with a new partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, the After Dark Horrorfest is back with a new crop of “8 Films to Die For.” All the films were released in select theaters and on VOD October 16, 2015, with a DVD release date of October 27, 2015.
Suspension opens with simplistic, but great, opening credits–an animated sequence in the style of Emily’s drawings depicting a van driving through a farm. This leads to the opening scene of a woman in a mask torturing Tom on camera, who then escapes and kills both her and the cameraman. But yet another reveal shows that this scenario is just a live action version of the graphic novel that Emily is creating in class, thus setting up the film’s dual storyline that alternates between fantasy and reality. The plot in the main story is pretty weak and boring–a girl at home babysitting her brother while the other kids in school have a house party–so the scenes from Emily’s comic book offer a great juxtaposition. Things really get interesting when that line between fantasy and reality starts to blur, though, and the audience really starts to question what they are seeing.
The fantasy scenes are the most beautifully shot sequences of the whole movie. They mirror Emily’s drawings in that they are filmed in a palette that is very muted and gray, with bright pops of color for things like the blood, the bright red barn, or the light from candles. The rest of the movie is shot in a much more natural tone, and the differentiation between the two styles actually becomes an important storytelling aspect as the plot progresses. I thought this was a wonderful new way to tell the somewhat familiar story of a main character with a dark past and one who is maybe not as normal as she thinks she is. The killer wears a baby face doll mask, similar to the ones in films like The Hills Run Red or Behind the Mask, but the way he kills is not so innocent.
The death scenes are nothing more elaborate than stabbings with various implements, but they are very effective. Almost every kill is up close and personal with the victim, with many shots that are tight on the gore and there is no shying away from the blood sprayage, so that they are graphic without being exploitative. You feel for even the less likable characters when they finally get it in the end. There is one scene involving a seemingly inexperienced deputy that gets excessive in the gore to the point of being comedic, yet this doesn’t take anything away from the rest of the film.
I love the casting of Ellen MacNevin as Emily. Her beauty is very natural and real, but she’s just different enough to where you believe that she doesn’t exactly fit in with the more popular crowd, even to the point that her best and possibly only friend will abandon her to hang out with them. MacNevin also brings sympathy and a kind heart to Emily in the way she loves her brother Jeremy, and this is important to counteract some of the odd things she does and the graphic drawings she creates. Some of the side characters are not that well-developed, but the young actors do the best they can with what they are given.
Where Suspension might lose some viewers is in the ending. There is one plot twist that I did not see coming at all, while the other major twist is one that almost anyone could guess from the very beginning of the film. However, I felt like it was executed very well, and not some plot point that was shoehorned in where it didn’t belong. While this particular element is not the most original part about Suspension, the way the film is presented visually and stylistically with the comic book element is something I have not seen before and really enjoyed. I would definitely recommend checking this one out. It’s available on DVD now.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director: Jeffrey Scott Lando
Writer: Kevin Mosley
Stars: Ellen MacNevin, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Sage Brocklebank
Studio/ Production Co: Suspended Reality Productions, After Dark Films
Length: 87 minutes