Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Presence (2010)

Negative vibes

A woman (Mira Sorvino) arrives at an isolated cabin in the woods that at first brings back a sense of nostalgia. Without the filmmakers beating around the bush, there's a grumpy ghost (Shane West) already there who she can't see with bags under his eyes and a I'm-two-steps-from-murdering-you posture. She's using the time to be in peace and left alone while she writes something that's never divulged. The two make a team of perfect loners as the presence stands and sits about doing repetitive routines but starts to get curious about this woman who is now invading his solitude. She finds a newspaper clipping laying about that states that someone had died in that area with a criminal background, but likewise that's not gone into as the story concentrates on them primarily in the now without muddling it up with flashbacks.

"The Presence" is divided with the two main characters, with the woman taking a share of the story for the beginning half, the ghost joining up after that for his story and then both threads being combined into one similar interest by the time it closes. The movie is incredibly basic, to the point of not always carrying an identifiable genre template that would stick out at you. Neither does it come with a definite style--it's unpretentious to a fault, in that it's not always capable of penetrating through or giving more than a minor tug to reel you in. Some of the mentioned might not always be an issue, but the problem is it feels like a story teller that doesn't care if people walk off or stay, in that it's going to tell it in its own unhurried, one-moment-at-a-time way. Even some of the camera setups are still shots with the characters doing the moving and without always pulling away or panning around--it's up to the audience for what they want to see and where one's eyes want to rove. The film has an incredible amount of breathing room. No one wants a picture to scream at them and be obvious or to force emotions out of you. But this doesn't always even try and be persuasive to what it's showing you. The problem is with the beginning half, neither the drama nor the ghost element seems exceptional--only being built up to make sense later. There's a small mystery element and there's some shots to project an isolated mood but there's not a whole lot to ponder on at this point unless it's coming from your behalf, which can make a first time viewer lost to its subtext at first.

Her boyfriend (Justin Kirk) makes an unannounced visit against his girlfriend's wishes and neither does the ghost like the extra attention and competition from the third wheel. She gives in momentarily, making this go from loving vacation time to melodramatic fights that show her true colors. She has random fits: from nice and reasonable to cold and spiteful. She needs her alone time and pushes away from men getting too close from a past event that her boyfriend makes every attempt to understand. Somewhere around the half way mark interest sparks when this moves away from every day activities and squabbles when a second apparition (Tony Curran) appears with an amoral outlook and a certain sly charm that makes him seem more a counterpart of the devil than a lost spirit looking for his way.

"The Presence" is a movie that deals with trusting others after someone else manipulated or used you in the past. There's a supernatural element used--only for the sake of moving the narrative along in a unique way rather than to fright--but this still has dual meaning in that it's also about letting bad choices into your life when you feel sorry for yourself or letting negative thoughts ferment and get the best of you. The movie isn't overly complicated if one manages to focus on the words and what's shown, or even overly ambitious and doesn't seem forced--the characters represent specific elements to the story with the most range coming from the woman. There's some potential here that some can relate to possibly on a spiritual level, just the film misses out on attempting to draw in its audience--as if by selling the story to someone else it would dumb it down to a salable product instead of an art form; I'm not sure the reasoning behind it but that's my guess--though I can guarantee it's going to cause a share of people to shut this off before giving it a chance.

I personally like the latter half, but it loses replay value working up to that point again. It feels like a two hour run time when it clocks in at only an hour and twenty minutes. Even the music seems to hang back at times by coming in with loud volume as if someone's playing with the mute button or has a form of narcolepsy the way it bursts into action and then is silent. I don't think this film's intention was to be overly scary or creepy, for one by shooting their ghost in excess, to the point of getting used to him being there. Not to mention this uses real people as ghosts instead of CGI, which I only counted for a single effect. On the other hand, the issue is he's shown too much and without much to do at first, causing him to become predictable to the point of poking fun every time you can count on him appearing with the same face and pose. "Hey, who killed the Abercrombie model and turned him into furniture," or the most obvious, "This guy'll beat out anyone in a staring contest...probably because he doesn't have to eat, sleep...." Only recommended for the patient of the patient.

Rating: 4.5/10

Director: Tom Provost
Stars: Mira Sorvino, Shane West, Justin Kirk, Tony Curran
Link: IMDB

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