Mickey Keating’s latest genre outing, Pod, is all about paranoia as a family intervention goes horrifically awry within the snowy confines of a lake house. It’s a film with a cabin in the woods vibe, using its snow swept setting and claustrophobic narrative to give it an impactful sense of isolation. But despite some legitimately scary moments, Pod wastes too much valuable time getting to the good stuff.
It’s a very short film (it hovers around the 75-85 minute mark) so it makes quick work of getting our main characters exactly where it wants them—in the lake house with their looney brother. In doing so, however, we’re never really given an opportunity to get to know any of them, which is a shame because I got the sense that there was a bigger story behind these characters. All we really know is that a brother and sister set out to help their distraught brother, who has a history of mental illness and has locked himself away at a lake house. Upon arriving, they find the house in a mess (think hoarders) with the windows covered in tinfoil and the doors boarded up. Not only does it look like their crazy brother was trying to keep something from getting in, but he was trying to keep something from getting out as well—but what could it be? Well, we kind of already know.
Unfortunately, the film’s marketing doesn’t exactly try to hide the fact that the movie is about aliens… I mean, the title is Pod after all and the trailer itself shows us exactly what’s in the basement (briefly, but it is there). I normally wouldn’t have a problem with this, but my main issue is that it wastes so much of its narrative trying to fool the audience; a massive chunk of its running time is a pointless attempt to get us to bite on something we already know isn’t there. It’s a very short film, so the fact that the movie spends far too much of its precious time trying to force the story in a direction we already know it isn’t going felt very aimless.
Here’s what I mean: the movie wants us to think that the brother is all sorts of crazy and that everything he says is only happening in his head. But again, we already know that when he says he found a pod in the woods and he locked something away in the basement, that he’s telling the truth—it doesn’t matter that his brother and sister don’t believe him. What I’m trying to say is that Pod would have been much more effective had it been able to use that mystery to its advantage, rather than waste precious time. Had the film walked a line between forcing the audience to decide between the brother and his siblings, then Pod would have had the power to manipulate its viewers. And honestly, this is such a huge fault in the film that when it gets good (and it gets good), that all I could think about is what could have been. Also, the film completely wastes the wonderful talent of Lauren Ashley Carter, who is really only there to scream when things go from bad to worse. Bummer.
But there is some good in Pod (even great, really), and it’s the exact moment in which they finally go into the basement to see what their batshit brother has been mumbling about the entire fucking movie. This is where the terror really kicks in and shows Keating’s talent behind the camera. He knows how to scare and he does it in a way that sneaks up on you, which is fantastically displayed in the film’s final act. The only problem is that as soon as Pod finally gets good it’s over. Just like this review.
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