Written and Directed by Stephen Portland
Starring Jane Rowen, Michael Gazin, Joel Clark Ackerman, Eric Roberts
Indie Film Review by Hannah Sayer
Stephen Portland’s debut feature Something is a horror mystery film that explores how a couple’s
life begins to unravel as they adjust to life with their newborn baby. This is an unsettling and at times jumpy film which explores themes of parenthood, fear and paranoia.
The film opens with a frame narrative to a flashback as a Cop, played by Joel Clark Ackerman, arrives at the house that we later learn is the home of this couple and their newborn baby. He keeps knocking to no answer from inside the house. When he looks through the window, the blinds are obscuring his view yet he can see what looks like a body. This introduces us to the eerie and sinister story to follow. The couple in the film aren’t credited with names. They are simply called Man (Michael Gazin) and Woman (Jane Rowen) in the credits. The film shows scenes of them parenting and looking after the child together but the husband has to go back to work in a couple of days. The wife remarks that she wishes things would go back to the way things were before the baby and this exploration of her difficulty adjusting to her new life is an intriguing aspect of the story.
The baby is constantly crying meaning the couple are sleep deprived and feeling very low. In one scene when the husband looks after the baby while the wife goes to run a bath for a brief moment of relaxation, there’s no hot water and she seems concerned about having to invite the person round again who fixed it previously as he gave her the creeps. What follows is one thing after another going wrong for this couple and the viewer begins to anticipate that this is all building up to something awful that is about to happen. The couple both begin to see a figure in the house either in reflections or on the baby monitor. The film asks the viewer to consider whether this is all in the couple’s mind or is it something more? Something explores how this all begins to cause tension between the couple as paranoia builds as the viewer and the couple themselves question whether what is happening is real or imagined.
The film’s score is effectively used throughout to heighten moments of tension and this makes the viewer anticipate something is wrong, especially during the opening police scene and when the couple believe the intruder is in the house. This adds to the foreboding atmosphere which is also reinforced through the film taking place almost entirely within the confined setting of the couple’s home. This adds to the claustrophobic intensity and creates a slow-burn effect as the couple’s paranoia and anxiety builds to a climactic moment. The film plays with rational fears and there is something so frightening about being confined within this house with the baby non-stop crying. This heightens their paranoia and makes the film even more unsettling. I like how the film has explored parenthood and the feelings of postpartum depression experienced by the mother. The underlying awareness of this issue elevates the material.
At times the acting feels slightly wooden and over-acted. Yet, this is only reinforced due to the claustrophobic and intense atmosphere as these are only the only characters seen on screen for the majority of the film. Something is slightly overlong yet it is still enjoyable. It takes a long time for the mystery to unravel but it is an intriguing premise which keeps the viewer interested.
Overall, Something is an entertaining horror mystery film which has genuine scares as well as exploring genuine fears of parenthood and home intruders. The clever twist at the end answers many questions but also leaves a lot of the mystery open and for the audience to decide whether everything that has happened is clearly real or imagined. This great ending reinforces the smart storytelling of Something.