Director: Blake Ridder
Writer: Blake Ridder
Starring: Emily Redpath, Sarah Alexandra Marks, Louis James, and Blake Ridder
Blake Ridder’s feature debut, Help, is a creepy psychological thriller that’s all about building an unsettling atmosphere. After making more shorts than ever before during the pandemic, Blake Ridder started work on his first feature length film, which was shot in twelve days, with a restricted cast and crew of twenty people due to lockdown restrictions in the UK.
After a rough break-up, Grace (Emily Redpath) decides to visit her old friend Liv (Sarah Alexandra Marks), who lives with her boyfriend Edward (Louis James) in the countryside. The couple are surprised at Grace’s visit, but invite her in. While the visit starts out nicely, everyone has their secrets and once they’re revealed all hell breaks loose.
Help spends the first hour of the film setting up characters, putting pieces in play and keeping you out of the loop for most of it. You know there’s something off about the visit based purely on Liv and Edward’s reactions to Grace when she first appears. The feeling that there’s something unspoken between them perfectly builds the tension and unsettling atmosphere in the countryside house. Their house is gorgeous, with a modern design, large rooms, and a massive garden. Never has a such a nice, bright, and big house felt so unwelcoming. That’s without mentioning the warning that Grace receives from one of the couple’s neighbour, David (Blake Ridder), when she first arrives. There’s something uncanny about everything and you’re just waiting for something bad to happen.
When everything is revealed the pay off is great. You spend a lot of time with the characters, getting to know them, and at the same time there are glances between Grace and Edward that seem to hint at something. There’s a strange tension between everyone when Grace firsts arrives, and then there are also strange moments that feel completely out of place, like they’re flashbacks or dreams. It’s disorientating in a way that keeps you engaged until the big reveal.
Running at a little over ninety minutes the film does struggle a little with pacing in the middle. Once you get to know the characters you just want secrets to be revealed, and it does start to drag when the film delays that. There is also some very unnatural dialogue and delivery at points. For the most part the central cast are great, but there are moments where they don’t shine as much. It’s not the biggest issue, but it’s still noticeable.
Help is a great film, and one where the unsettling atmosphere and terrific final twenty minutes makes you forget about the sluggish middle and bad acting. Once the finale kicks into gear it really gets going and doesn’t slow down again until the credits roll. It’s something that gets under your skin and will leave you thinking about it for hours after watching.
HELP will be coming to Digital Download from 15th February 2022
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