Rift Movie Review
Written by Greg Fisher
Released by Breaking Glass Pictures
Written and directed by Erlingur Thoroddsen
2017, 111 min, Rated R
Björn Stefánsson as Gunnar
Sigurður Þór Óskarsson as Einar
Guðmundur Ólafsson as Grétar
Aðalbjörg Árnadóttir as Gyða
Something seems off to Gunnar when his ex-boyfriend Einar calls him. Einar is distant, strange, and seems suicidal, which leads Gunnar to Einar's family cabin in a remote part of Iceland. Nothing becomes clearer when he arrives. Einar sulks and skulks around the tiny building and the surrounding area, bringing Gunnar to focus on their past. None of this can shed any light onto the strange knocks on the door at night, and the feeling that something much more malevolent than their history wants in.
Rift is an ambitious movie that does a good job with what it has. Low budget seems to be a given, so what a better way to keep costs down than with a minimum of actors, sets, and locations. Stefansson and Oskarsson by far dominate the screentime, either in the lonely cabin, an abandoned motel, or wilting fall fields. All of this feeds the sense of paranoia and isolation the audience experiences through the eyes of Gunnar. Director Thoroddsen walks a razor's edge with this, which ultimately brings the main criticism of the film.
Clearly, Thoroddsen is enamored with the works of Alfred Hitchcock and uses this movie as an homage to the beloved director. He uses similar tactics to prolong suspense, create mood, and emphasize the drama. However, M. Night Shyamalan has done a better job of this over the past fifteen years, making, to even the casual moviegoer, one feel that Thoroddsen is knicking Shyamalan. This copy of a copy sense dilutes the effort that Thoroddsen strives to put forth, giving the audience the sensation that they've seen this done before. Despite this, the visuals service the story dutifully, and given a bit more confidence in his own vision, Thoroddsen should be an interesting director to watch in the future.
Stefansson and Oskarsson carry the film as Gunnar and Einar, as they monopolize the vast majority of the screen time. The other actors make one-scene cameos, and while none stand out, all do an admirable job. The main two do a capable and entertaining turn as the ex lovers, giving depth to the characters beyond their lines. They react to the situations and scenes with practiced understatement, and really shine in the roles.
This one meta distraction does not completely take away what Thorddsen has crafted by any means. He has birthed what has been regarded as a breakthrough queer horror movie, and can and should be applauded as such. There is no stereotype, no overdone wink or nod to Gunnar and Einar's sexual orientation. Given a few snips and cuts of scenes and dialogue, this could easily be about the love between two friends that have known each other for years. It is about the feeling, not grandstanding to say, "Look at what I've made!" Could other directors in the genre use such deft skill with their characters and actors with their portrayals, homosexual or not, then the genre wouldn't be in the current C movie hell in which it currently resides.