[Fantasia 2020] “The Block Island Sound” review

When everything, from animals to people, begins to crumble, you need to pack your things, grab your loved ones, leave and hope for the best. That is definitely not what the characters in “The Block Island Sound” did and they are paying the price. The film written and directed by the McManus brothers made its world premiere at Fantasia Festival’s online edition.

Something very frightening is occurring on Block Island. Electronics are malfunctioning. Birds are falling out of the sky. Mountains of dead fish are piling up on the beach. People are acting strange; very strange. Adult brother and sister, Harry (Chris Sheffield; “The Maze Runner”) and Audry (Michaela McManus; “Into the Grizzly Maze”), are very concerned about their father (Neville Archambault; the incredibly creepy voyeur from “13 Cameras” (a.k.a. “Slumlord”) and its sequel, “14 Cameras”) as his emotional and psychological breakdowns are certainly alarming. When the patriarch of the family goes missing, Harry begins to pile research on this strange phenomenon that is now affecting him and will certainly change everything for him forever.

After having worked together on “Funeral Kings” (which was also presented at Fantasia in 2012), the brothers are back with a much darker tale. We are witnesses to beautiful cinematography from them, stemming from creative, dynamic and appealing camera angles and shots. The plot is mysterious and its mood and events press down on your chest in a very psychologically exhausting way. To add to this, composer Paul Koch develops a creepy score that sets the disconcerting ambience right from the start while sound editor Shawn Duffy does a fantastic job at rumbling in the eerie sound that resonates through the island many times throughout the film, adding to the harrowing atmosphere.

This psychological thriller is also possible through the work of a stellar cast. Michaela McManus (real life sister of the writer/director brothers) evokes a sense of empathy from the audience as she struggles to keep her sanity together, while taking care of her daughter and dealing with her brother’s erratic behavior. Although we see a more human side from Neville Archambault after his chilling performance in “13 Cameras”, his performance is nonetheless distressing in “The Block Island Sound”. The true spotlight shines brightest on Chris Sheffield who brings forth a brilliant performance. His emotional anguish and confusion is definitely heartfelt and genuine, truly making us believe what he is going through. Don’t forget a tiny, yet impressive, role from Jeremy Holm (the charismatic antagonist from 2018’s “The Ranger” (also presented at Fantasia for its release)).

Without spoiling anything, I was impressed at how the films makes us believe that certain things are present without actually showing them to us, which is important to be successful in this aspect for an indie movie. The last film to have had this effect on me was with another film presented at Fantasia, back in 2015: Perry Blackshear’s “They Look Like People”. The psychological horror for both films is very comparable and effective.

You should definitely give the McManus duo’s film a watch as it climbs the rankings in my top films of this year’s Fantasia edition. “The Block Island Sound” is a movie you should look for as it receives a solid 8/10 score.

Article written by Simon Rotherk

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