Tag Archives: Murder mystery

Shimmer Lake (2017): A Mystery Told in Reverse

I have yet to see a truly great film that is a Netflix original. Almost always the films go from bad to decent, though this is the first one I’ve seen since “Beats of no Nation” that was truly good. “Shimmer Lake” is very Coenesque in execution but doesn’t quite rise to the farcical comedies that pervades most of the Coen works. It is this lack of humor that really brings it down and keeps it from becoming great, though it is still worth checking out.

The film was directed by Oren Uziel who also wrote the film, while being produced by Adam Saunders and Britton Rizzio.

The story a small town sheriff named Walker who is investigating a bank robbery that involves his brother and two ex-friends. The story is told in reverse.

The Pros: The Premise – The idea of a small town bank robbery that turns into something bigger (being told from when the crime is done and the outcome to how it came about) is really cool. The setup was a large part of what kept me watching because I was waiting to learn more the different characters and their relationships. Rainn Wilson has so much charisma and I think having him be one of the first characters we meet who is so connected to the incident really strengthened the film.

The Cons: The Point of the Characters – This is a story full of betrayal and reveals, and at times does have comedy and even real drama between characters before many of them go full evil. It is this full range of character actions and types that fail to be a theme that are the largest con of the film. This film needed a focus for the mystery to truly be more than simply good.

I wish there was more to say about this film, but this is a film that doesn’t really have a larger point. It is a thriller and mystery where the catch is how the story is told (mystery in reverse) versus the point and themes of the story. I’m avoiding spoilers since the reveal is one of the few reasons to see this film but I also found that because it lacked a larger farcical bent or any major theme that was consistent across the board makes it a story that I will recommend but do not consider great. This film strives to be a Coen film when it should have sought more of it’s own voice.

Final Score: 8 / 10 A solid mystery.

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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) – The Fear of the Other

The Lodger

“The Lodger,” is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earliest works (1927) and is a silent film that captures many of the themes and tropes of his later films. The film takes place in London during a spat of murders of blond haired women by a killer known as The Avenger. The name of the film is because a mysterious man takes up in the house of the main family that the story follows as they are left wondering if he is the murder.

It is based off a story and a co-written play by Marie Belloc Lowndes called “Who is He?” I plan on reading both.

Here is my assessment of the film:

The Pros: The music – Captures the tension beautifully since the is no speaking since this is a silent picture. The only words are shown on the screen or sung in two songs. The music also reminds me of Hitchcock’s later works…he moves between romance, tension, fear and humor so deftly.

The actors – Do a fantastic job. They only have body and face to be there characters and they do it wonderfully. The Lodger is especially creepy but endearing and Daisy is memorable as the heroine(a blond haired one at that, another Hitchcock trope).

The characters – Are interesting, the only one I didn’t like was the detective who kept kitting on Daisy when she clearly wasn’t into him. He kept talking about their relationship when there was clearly none there. The parents are great to as protective and good intentioned…and the Lodger captures the mystery of the unknown Other perfectly.

The story – Is fantastic, the stakes are established early which makes the Lodger’s arrival add mystery…since he doesn’t act like anyone else but is still kind. The mystery of who he really is is fantastic to watch.

SPOILERS

The Ending and Theme – The Lodger is innocent. People connecting the dots of how he was connected to the criminal (his sister was the first victim) is revealed over time and you see why he as difficulty trusting because of it. He in turn isn’t trusted either because of how strange he is leading to a mob trying to kill him until the real killer is caught. Daisy saves him (Hitchcock has some of the best heroes and heroines) and they get together for real.

Okay: Length – It drags a bit at times which is the only thing I can say against it. It could have been faster and still had the same emotional payoff.

This is a fantastic film and one of my favorites (like most of Hitchcock’s work that I’ve watched). The theme of not letting fear rule our actions in regards to others is important. The mob almost kills an innocent man because of that fear and distrust of someone they didn’t even know. This is sadly common and is part of human nature, but a part of human nature we can deal with situation by situation while still being cautious. I love Hitchock’s tropes of the Other, the Heroine and the danger and mystery of human nature (for good and ill), and this film captures that beautifully.

I highly recommend: 9.7 / 10

Not the perfect Hitchcock but one of the best.