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Veteran cinematographer Nathan Hope tries on his Writer and Director caps with “Elsewhere,” a small town thriller released in theatres in January and already out on DVD and Blu-Ray. To be blunt, he really shouldn’t quit his day job. While the production values are high and the acting is adequate, there is nothing about this film that can make up for the hackneyed plot elements, lackluster characters and awkward, and almost laughable, tension.
The story takes place in the real town of Goshen, Indiana. A farm town that doesn’t seem to offer much to it’s teenagers except, perhaps, the opportunity to discover some of it’s tantalizingly dark secrets. Every small town in America has deep, dark secrets just waiting to swallow another victim, right? The movie centers, exclusively, on Sarah (Anna Kendrick from Twilight) who is best friends with the rebellious Jillian (Tania Raymonde from Lost) who constantly rages against their bucolic surroundings. Sarah is the bright and hopeful Yin against Jillian’s angsty and dismal Yang, through much of the first third of the movie and they spend most of their time complaining and gossiping in between scenes of them working at the town cafe, slash, candy store and smoking and drinking at the cemetary. Until, of course, Jillian reveals that she has a secret, sexy online identity that she’s been using to find a way out of Goshen. Sarah attends a wild party, thrown by the dreamy town hunk, on the same night Jillian has a much hyped rendezvous with one of her mysterious online suitors. Jillian disappears. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
For the rest of the movie Sarah goes on a lone crusade to find her missing best friend while the rest of the town, including Jillian’s own mother, is convinced that Jillian has finally had enough and just ran away. Sarah’s only clues are a couple of bad dreams, a frightening video sent from her cellphone the night she disappeared and a necklace that Jillian received from her online boyfriend. Sarah is, reluctantly, helped by Jasper (Chuck Carter), a geeky boy the girls grew up with who works at the town library and, like every other guy in town who was a fan of Jillian’s dirty online persona, seems to know more about Jillian than her best friend.
Writer/Director Hope attempts to be clever by throwing in a few lame curves but only succeeds in adding even more tired repitions on a theme. Ex-boyfriend jock who used to date Jillian and is constantly being taunted by her… check. Painfully shy girl they work with who, unsuccessfully, tries to be their friend, while trying to avoid upsetting her hyper-religious father… check. Creepy, small town cop who appears to be nothing more than a corrupt pervert trying to keep his secrets well hidden… check. Overweight, cussing, slovenly, uncaring, chain-smoking mother who makes just enough money trying to sell herbal breast enhancement products on the phone to keep her and Jillian confined to a run-down single wide trailer… check.
It’s more likely that you’ll enjoy this movie by making fun of the gaping plot holes, corny characters and wafer thin premise than you will if you try to take it seriously. So, if you’ve got one hundred six minutes to spare and don’t mind dropping your IQ a few points, by all means, have a good time. However, if you want something that will do what serious thrillers should do, like get your heart rate up to fighting speed and make you question your own safety, instead of make you groan at another movie about the real horrors of teen angst and the inhumanity of being bored in a small town, then take a cue from the title and resign yourself to being “Elsewhere.”
Nathan Hope (writer/director)
CAST: Anna Kendrick … Sarah
Paul Wesley … Billy
Tania Raymonde … Jillian
Chuck Carter … Jasper
Olivia Dawn York … Darla Tod
Jeffrey Daniel Phillips … Officer Berg
Shannon Holt … Patty Melville
Kinna McInroe … Candy