The Latent Image
Dir. Alexander McGregor Birrell (2022)
A writer finds his stories coming to life when a mysterious stranger interrupts his vacation in a desolate cabin.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
Man, don’t you just hate it when someone interrupts your writing? Acquired by brand new boutique label Cinephobia Releasing, The Latent Image is about a queer thriller writer, Ben (Joshua Tonks), who finds himself being accosted by a drifter that breaks into his cabin retreat. He makes the decision to help The Man (Jay Clift), who arrives bloodied in the middle of the night, and offers to help drive him into town once he gets all of his things together. His personal life begins to come into focus as his relationship with his visitor breaks down, and the line between reality, fiction, and fantasy begin to blur into a deliriously dangerous game.
The very small cast does a good job of carrying a barebones story, and while there’s not a whole lot that actually happens on-screen, director Birrell and star Tonks, who co-wrote the script, did an excellent job of making the audience want to see the film through to the finish. The cat and mouse game is nothing new in cinema, but there are a few interesting twists present that help to keep things fresh throughout. The camerawork is excellent, rarely cutting away and giving the audience a voyeuristic thrill to the events inside the cabin. The sexual tension between the two leads is interesting, though seemingly one-sided, with one gay character and one straight, neither fully knowing the others’ intentions.
One interesting concept within the film is the notion that there isn’t a whole lot different between flirting and stalking your prey; the interactions between The Man and Ben are sexual for one and antagonistic for the other. The repression inherent in their conversations fill in the blanks in the story, further complicating Ben’s already complicated life. Ben has a writer’s imagination, which doesn’t always serve to further his interests or his survivability. The Latent Image is another intriguing film from Cinephobia Releasing, and they are quickly building their brand of psychosexual horror thriller.
Who this movie is for: Psychological thriller fans, Home invasion movie lovers, People with writer’s block
Bottom line: A good script and some better-than-decent acting will take a film a long way, and this cat-and-mouse thriller has both. A barebones cast and story is punctuated by some chilling moments, a subverted and transgressive story that feels a bit like Misery crossed with The Strangers. Leads Joshua Tonks and Jay Clift are good, making a regular insular story pop and remain engaging throughout. Cinephobia Releasing, from whom I previously reviewed Amor Bandido, has already made itself a name to watch out for in the boutique physical media game. Check this one in theaters or on bluray this spring.