Road to terror takes many twists in "November"
Things are never, ever what they seem in Greg Harrison's "November," a well-crafted, ultimately unsatisfying horror film that starts out...
Special to The Seattle Times
Things are never, ever what they seem in Greg Harrison's "November," a well-crafted, ultimately unsatisfying horror film that starts out as one kind of mind game, shifts gears about midway through, then pulls the rug out from under you.
While the final twist may take you by surprise, it doesn't feel honest or earned or organic. It's as if the filmmakers had remembered how well it worked in other, spookier movies (just naming them would be to give away the twist), and decided to slap it onto their ending. Still, for much of its length, the movie is likely to keep you guessing.
After a photographer (Courteney Cox) loses her boyfriend (James Le Gros) in a shootout at a convenience store, she's subject to mood swings and headaches and starts hearing noises in her home. She consults a shrink (Nora Dunn) and asks the police to track down the mysterious source of a photograph of the crime scene.
Soon she's confronting alternate realities, replaying memories of her boyfriend and her mother (Anne Archer) and doubting her own sanity. Each time she goes over this material in her head, it becomes a little more distorted, a little less reliable. Is it just memory playing tricks on her, or has she really lost her grip?
At first Harrison's movie suggests an ultra-low-budget 21st-century variation on Roman Polanski's 1965 classic "Repulsion," and the minimalist approach works for a while. It's easy to see why Nancy Schreiber's dark and moody cinematography won a prize earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.
Harrison, who directed the charming San Francisco rave movie "Groove" (2000), does an admirable job of switching gears while making the most of his $300,000 budget and 15-day shooting schedule. The movie always looks more expensive than it is.
Unfortunately, neither the characters nor the ideas in Benjamin Brand's screenplay are developed enough to warrant even a 73-minute running time, and Harrison doesn't have the actors he needs. Catherine Deneuve, who played Polanski's madwoman, seemed almost dangerously committed to her role. Cox's character may be nuts, but, even when her secret is revealed, she's not very interesting.
John Hartl: email@example.com