The Latent Image ***
Starring: Joshua Tonks, Jay Clift, Wiliam Tippery
Director: Alexander McGregor Birrell
Ben (Tonks) is a writer staying in a secluded cabin in the woods when a handsome stranger (Clift) appears, whose car has broken down. Agreeing to let him stay, the boundaries between fiction and reality blur as Ben uses this encounter as inspiration for his writing... or is it the other way round?
Based on the director’s short film of the same name, this is a tense psycho-drama that’s both compelling and confounding. Its scenes are a series of well-crafted suspense pieces, but stitched together they’re a mind-bogglingly meta conundrum where there is seemingly no boundary between what’s real and what’s not. At times it’s not even clear whose story it is and who’s telling it.
This isn’t just another cabin-in-the-woods horror. It may lend much from this well-trodden subgenre, but it’s really an exercise in narrative-craft. And while this is pleasingly surprising for the most part, the film’s final act is particularly dense, with rugs pulled out from beneath the rug on which the original rug was sitting. It’s clever, it’s smug and it never quite lets us have the pay-off it was dangling before us.
Seeped in sexual tension, the lines between violence and foreplay, murder and sex are disarmingly close as Ben and The Man flirt-threaten one another. And because we have absolutely no idea what is real and what Ben has invented, either character could be the hero or the villain. It’s an intriguing set-up that leaves the door unlocked for a mind-boggling conclusion. And we all know that in a movie, an unlocked door can only lead to one thing...
UK Release: 8th October 2023 in cinemas and on VOD, released by Cinephobia Releasing