Cast: Alex Pettyfer, James Freedson-Jackson, Emily Althaus, Gene Jones
Directors: Christopher Radcliff, Lauren Wolkstein
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Mysterious events surround two travelers as they make their way across a remote American landscape. On the surface all seems normal, but what appears to be a simple vacation soon gives way to a dark and complex web of secrets.
The one word that accurately describes The Strange Ones is just that; strange. The movie has highlights from its cinematography to the acting of Freedson-Jackson, but the story leaves this reviewer with more questions than answers.
The movie starts off with two brothers, Nick (Pettyfer) and Sam (Freedson-Jackson), as they go across the U.S. on a camping trip. At the beginning, nothing about this trip seems out of the ordinary, but as details emerge about their relationship, we begin to see that there are more sinister reasons for this trip.
One of the more confusing elements of Nick’s character development is that we know that he is a bad guy, but we never find out what truly motivates him or makes him do the things he does. There is an explanation towards the end of the movie that kind of explains why Nick and Sam went on this trip in the first place, but it does not show what truly makes Nick the person he is. Things like jealously and anger are shown to be motivating factors, but on the surface, those two emotions do not lead a person to carry out the things that Nick did. At times, it feels like they are generalizing the group of people that Nick belongs to, equating that all of them are violent, which is not the case. The thing that separates villains like Nick from villains like Norman Bates from Psycho is that we know why Norman commits the crimes he does, but we never really figure that out from Nick. Keep in mind, this film is only 82 minutes long. There was time for more character development to happen without the expense of the film dragging on. I do not know whether cost or creativity prevented this development to be shown, but either way, we needed more to help get a more satisfying conclusion.
While the story is not this film’s strong points, the cinematography of the film was gorgeous. With the exception of one shaky-cam scene, the film was shot incredibly well. The ability to highlight colors throughout the film, specifically red and orange, truly shows the importance of events throughout the movie and how they are connected to one another. From the actors, we get a marvelous performance from Freedson-Jackson who has great potential as a young adult actor. Sam went through some horrific events throughout the movie and I believe he acts how a teenager would in those situations. Freedson-Jackson brilliantly demonstrates how someone who experienced trauma and manipulation at such a crucial time in his life would feel by showing us instead of telling us.
Overall, The Strange Ones sacrifices story for style, and it shows. Had the story been more ironed out, this film could have been very well put together and better articulated the point it was trying to make. It is not a necessarily a bad film, but one that needed a little more work to make it a good film.
Overall Score: 5/10