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Friday, 13 September 2013

Doubting Thomas (2013)

Director: J Andy Moreno
Stars: Andriy Ivanov and Zein Moreno
This film was a submission to one of the IFP Phoenix film challenges in 2013. Here's an index to my reviews of 2013 submissions.
Doubting Thomas wasn't eligible for awards at the IFP Beat the Clock challenge this year because slow upload speeds meant it missed the deadline. If it had been, Zein Moreno would have had a solid shot for the Best Actress award, as her performance stayed with me throughout the remaining screenings and far beyond. I'm not quite sure that she's left yet! Really she's only in this film as a prop, to freak out the leading man in ways the other shock moments can't deliver, but she steals every scene she's in. He's some sort of paranormal investigator, booked into the San Carlos Hotel in downtown Phoenix to prove it has no ghosts. 'Haunted?' he says when he arrives. 'Yeah, right!' Andriy Ivanov isn't bad as Thomas Harper, though he could have been better. It's just that Moreno is outstanding as Annabelle, who's right there waiting for him to arrive and who greets him eerily by name. He gets more screen time than she does but she dominates the film, even when she's not in it.

To be fair, it's not all her, as this part was a gift. Annabelle's success is partly how her look is so neatly severe, how she says 'Mr Harper' like a hypnotic mantra and how she's framed so freakily in hallways that may or may not be in our world. Her appearing and disappearing act merely adds to the effect, as do cleverly accomplished shots like the one where the light plays on her face or the one where she's lit by candle in the dark. The pulsing soundtrack helps too, as does the apparent lack of anyone else in a 128 room hotel. Mostly, though, it's her and I'd very much like to see her in something else to see her range. She also isn't the only good thing about this film; in addition to all those aspects that helped her, there are other well timed shock moments and a beautifully shot ending. For a 48 hour film made by a cast and crew of four, this is pretty amazing stuff. That fact surely forgives the odd editing hiccup and camera issue. This isn't perfect by any means, but it's a gem of a competition entry.

Doubting Thomas can be viewed for free at Vimeo.

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