Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
August 1st, 2018


Directed by Jeffrey Lando
Written by Kevin Mosely
Starring Ellen MacNevin, Taylor Russell, Chris Nowland
87 mins

We're in the home stretch now with the latest go-round from After Dark, and with only two films left, half of the breathlessness comes from the content itself and half from the wondering, will there be a second dog this year, or have we already found it? This time, our candidate is Suspension, and this one's got some very familiar overtones to it.

Suspension follows Emily, a high school artist with a tendency toward the macabre. Dangerous tendency to have, especially in these post-Columbine days, but Emily's tendencies may have a familiar root. Her father, Tom, has been banished to a mental institution following a murder spree not so long ago, and now Emily's out on her own with her busy mother and mute little brother. During a night alone with said little brother, she learns a grisly truth: Tom has escaped the mental institution's clutches, and is now bearing down on her own home, killing all the way. Can Emily survive, and protect her little brother, from a father's madness?

If that sounds familiar, it probably should. It's a lot like an earlier After Dark release, Mischief Night. Though here, it's the father handling the knife, so that brings in shades of 2010's Burning Bright. Not a bad combination, though not necessarily all that unique. The premises are comparatively new; we're talking about two films released in the last 10 years.

I give them credit, though; this starts off with a real bang. It doesn't hold for long, but rather devolves into a round of horrors-of-high-school as only a movie could detail them. Then, we get treated to an almost washed-out color palette broken up by occasional bursts of sharp color that turn an otherwise fairly mundane slasher flick into a surprisingly visceral presentation. It's almost like what they did with The Spirit back in 2008; those odd bits of almost black-and-white with splashes of red. It's not the case all the time, but it's still a treat when it's done.

What's more interesting is how often it seems like Emily is drawing what's going on elsewhere. Does she know what's going on out there, or is this just art imitating life for a change, completely unawares?

It's these little touches that make Suspension a little something more than what it would normally be. This might have been a tired, hackneyed throwback to the 1990s slasher film. Not bad in and of itself, but likewise not particularly great. Certainly not worthy of an After Dark presentation. But by adding just a few modest touches of camerawork and unusual scripting, the end result is much more noteworthy.

The ending features some noteworthy surprises, a bit on the out-of-nowhere side, but they're sufficiently big to make the shock especially worthwhile. It's a little bit "Creepy Doll"--if you've ever heard the Jonathan Coulton song you'll know what I'm getting at--but it's such a big shock that the comparative lack of foreshadowing ahead of it, or at least the ultra-subtlety of the clues leading up to it, will make it worth seeing. Also, stick around through the credits; there's no after-credits sequence here, but there will be a nice little coda at the end that almost, but not quite, makes up for the special features.

Which are, once again, utterly unavailable. Honestly, Fox, this is the shoddiest presentation of a series of good movies I've seen in some time.

Suspension straddles the line between exciting genius and oh-so-familiar mundanity. It's just what we expect out of After Dark, where even the basic plot lines are given unexpected new life with a few novel twists. It's testament to just what a script can do if it's done right, and this is horror done right.