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By midlandsmovies, Aug 31 2019 10:33AM



Midlands Review - Off Grid


Directed by Carl Timms


2019


Dark Matter Films


How far will you go to protect your loved ones is a question asked in Off Grid, an impressive new short from Midlands filmmaker Carl Timms.


Opening with an unknown man in the woods at night, he is concerned for an injured woman whose clothes are splattered with blood. We are immediately shocked as we are then introduced to a bearded stranger in a green jacket who strikes the man hard with a shovel.


Strangely though, before passing away the man’s eyes glow a mysterious blue colour before he falls to ground as his friend (Kate Davies-Speak) escapes further into the woods. Yet the fight isn’t over as our attacker tracks down the frightened female, hits her and then her similarly blue eyes fade out to darkness.


So, Off Grid begins fantastically with an intense and intriguing opening sequence filmed at night using great cinematography from Paul Angier. And therefore the film impresses even before the main title appears. I’d advise local filmmakers to take note here as an exciting opening for your story (no matter what the genre) can create mystery using characters in conflict. Later the brief credits are laid over more footage to move along the story. So no time is wasted. If you’re condensing your story for a short-film format then condense most other things too.


Cutting to dawn, the man is John Tanner (played by Game of Thrones’ James Cosmo) who re-sets a bloodied bear trap before returning to a shack in the woods where bed-bound wife Grace (Alison Steadman) discusses with him about the safety of their refuge.


And here the film switches its sympathies from the young victims to the older protagonist – who is the real threat here? As John moves body bags to makeshift graves, he discovers his female victim’s body has disappeared, but we are quickly thrust into a tense moment as another suspicious stranger (Marc Bayliss) arrives and offers to work for a meal.


The devil is in the detail in Off Grid too. The hair and make-up are noticeably apt, the audience really gets a sense of the situation and surroundings from the subtle clothing and dirt and grime along with some gory special effects.


With the stranger welcomed into the shack, their cordial discussion over the table leads to an intense confrontation that instils further paranoia about the characters’ intentions and who each say they are.


The film reminded me a little of 2017 horror It Comes at Night by Trey Edward Shults. The infection, protection, a remote cabin and the constant fear of an unknown presence as a couple try to stay alive are all present but this is a far more engaging film that that (see our review here). The paranoia of the unknown seen in Off Grid also appears in 2019’s The Hole in the Ground (review here) which funnily enough also starred another haunting performance from James Cosmo.


And so as more blue light appears into the cabin, a final fight for survival ensues and Timms has expertly created set-ups and pay-offs which lead the film to a satisfying conclusion.


In the end, Off Grid is one of the most impressive shorts from the region in 2019. Timms has built upon his 2017 short STILL (review here) and develops the dark themes into a fascinating flick.


With twists, turns and a shocking final revelation, the 20-minute film is ultimately a stunning success for everyone involved. And the innovative shots, absorbing narrative and captivating performances from the cast make Off Grid an astonishing achievement that mixes high quality drama with spectacular shocks.


Michael Sales


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