Directed by: Michael Shlain
Written by: Michael Shlain
Starring: Yuri Lowenthal, Tony Amendola, David Rees Snell, Jack McGraw
Poster for In a Foreign Town
A broken, mentally unstable man recalls a traumatizing experience from his childhood.
A doctor (Amendola) is speaking to a patient (Lowenthal) inside a psychiatric hospital. The patient's wrists are covered with bandages, after he attempted to take his own life, following the passing of his wife. He is clearly emotionally damaged and the doctor is trying to get to the source of his troubles. The patient then proceeds to tell the story about a day out he had with his father (Snell), that turned into a nightmare. His dad took him to another town for a carnival, where he encountered the terrifying Showman.
This short horror film is a proof-of-concept for an anthology series which is currently in development and is based on original stories by horror author Thomas Ligotti.
Right from the start the atmosphere is sinister, and as the plot moves forward, the tension rises and rises, leading to nail-biting moments.
The terrific mise-en-scene resembles a Tim Burton film. The mysterious town the father and son arrive to is rather odd-looking, even appearing menacing. There is no one around and the streets are covered with smoke and fog, and filled with abandoned funfair equipment, such as carousel horses and various games. The walls are filled with posters announcing a funfair. Costume designer Jackie Gudgel did a fantastic job and created clothing that looks like it belongs to the fifties or forties.
The film takes its darkest turn when the Showman appears, as he is very frightening and steals the show. Located inside a small theater, he stands on the stage, with his back towards the seats, which are empty, save for the scared boy. The Showman looks almost inhuman, the stuff of nightmares. He is tall and wears old, torn clothes, a top hat and has long hair. His hands look horrible, like a ghoul's. He does not speak and constantly makes sudden movements, giving the indication that he is turning around to show his (probably terrifying) face and stops just when his face is about to be exposed. Ans that is what makes this figure so petrifying. He keeps teasing the audience, making them anxious about when his face will be revealed.
The music goes perfectly with the narrative. The score is intense and terrifying, helping develop a bone-chilling experience. There is also old-fashioned music that comes from a phonograph.
The acting is great by all of the cast and the Showman was played by an actor who also works as a contortionist, making his menacing moves seem that they belong to a demonic creature.
This achievement is a must-see. The plot is intriguing, the performances are outstanding, the cinematography is wonderful, the music is fearsome and it introduces a character guaranteed to give the viewer the chills.