In October 2015, The New York Times asked its readers, “If you could go back and kill Hitler as a baby, would you do it?” There’s no question that killing an infant is wrong. There’s also no question that our world would be infinitely better without the Holocaust. In his second movie, The Binding, Gus Krieger retells the Biblical could-you-kill-an-infant-for-the-greater-good story.
Sarah (Amy Gumenick) and Bram (Josh Heisler) are new parents who struggled to have children, but have finally had their first, Scaia (James Rose Collons). They’re named after Sarah and Abraham from the Binding of Isaac. Scaia is an anagram for, you guessed it, Isaac. This is all in case Bram claiming that God visited him in a dream and asked him to sacrifice his only son wasn’t an explicit enough connection. Once Bram has his visions, he and Sarah try to figure out whether it’s a psychological disorder or God is actually speaking to him.
Josh Heisler starts out with a near manic happiness and somehow elevates that excitement as he explains that God has visited him. From there, his character tanks emotionally. At one point, he’s silhouetted in a dark room and delivers a premonition in an impressively scary demon voice prophesying that if he doesn’t cut his child’s heart out, the world will end. Displaying impressive range, Heisler makes the audience believe in the highs and lows.
The sets are criminally boring though. In five or six of the houses and offices that Sarah visits, the walls are bare with the exception of crosses. Only the therapist’s house, where they inexplicably go for dinner, has photos on the wall. The budget certainly played a factor in this, but later in the movie Sarah puts all of her pictures of Bram into a box. Her mother also goes through a photo album with her. At the very least, they could’ve hung those on the walls. The characters, by extension, are equally empty. Sarah smokes hidden cigarettes as her one quirk, and Bram ritually dumps a bottle of liquor on Thursday nights. Like the lone crosses on the walls, these details aren’t enough to bring the characters to life.
The editing cuts off scenes too early. When someone says something impactful to end a conversation, most TV shows and movies linger, allowing actors to react to what they heard. The Binding doesn’t. It’s jarring. It makes drastic jumps, cutting out transitive material in a way that left me confused about where and when each scene was taking place.
The movie never makes clear what Christian denomination that Bram and Sarah follow, but they pray often and Bram wears a clerical collar. Their gay neighbors bring over cookies, and though their interaction with Sarah seems pleasant, Sarah apologizes for it when she returns their tupperware. Later she allows them to play with Scaia, and at the end of the movie (Spoiler) the world ends.
Since the gay characters are in about four scenes with minimal involvement in the actual plot of the movie, it’s hard not to read the subtext as implying that gay marriage has brought about the end of days. The Binding shows two gay men playing with a baby. In the next two minutes all of power grids in the city blow, implying the apocalypse. It’s impossible to know whether or not this is what Krieger is intending, but if it is, then I denounce his hatred and recommend you do the same by not watching his movie. A kinder reading would be that Krieger introduced them in a misguided attempt to appease liberal audiences with token minorities without thinking through any of the political ramifications of that decision. In any reading, the characters have no agency or characterization beyond their gayness, speaking to a weak script and poor directing.
The Binding will be available as a digital download beginning December 18th.
WICKED RATING: 2/10
Director(s): Gus Krieger
Writer(s): Gus Krieger
Stars: Amy Gumenick, Josh Heisler, James Rose Collons
Release: December 18th (Digital Download)
Studio/ Production Co: The Movie Partnership