Wednesday 17 October 2018

The Super (USA 2017: Dir Stephan Rick)

Phil is an ex-cop who has taken a job as a caretaker of a down at heel apartment complex in New York City. He's given up his previous life following the death of his wife to raise his two daughters, petulant Violet and her younger sister Rose (an intense performance from newcomer Mattea Conforti).

But as the family settle into their new life (and not much of one, with all three having to live in a store room with only sleeping bags for comfort) all is clearly not well inside the apartment block. We've already seen a lengthy pre-credits sequence wherein a teacher and her disabled husband are stalked and brutally murdered by an unseen entity, and fellow caretaker Walter seems to be in the frame mainly because of his obsession with voodoo. As the bodies mount up Phil and his family look to be in mortal danger from an increasingly aggressive unknown assailant.

The herring rouge come thick and fast in this rather old fashioned but by no means unenjoyable mix of hider-in-the-house movies and The Sixth Sense. For once the NYC apartment setting doesn't offer up uberglamorous flats that nobody on average salaries would be able to afford. In fact there's an overall feeling of scruffiness, with dowdy dwellings occupied by rather flawed broken people, and the lack of gloss is admirable.

Performances in the movie are extremely strong, which they'd need to be for some of the more WTF moments in the story (and yes, there's an M. Night Shyamalan style last reel twist that I couldn't possibly reveal). Apart from the aforementioned Ms Conforti, Taylor Richardson is great as troubled teen Violet, constantly on the verge of tears as she deals with grief caused by the death of her mother, and Patrick John Flueger is similarly conflicted as the family man wrestling with his own pain. Shifty support comes from Yul Vazquez as Phil's morally dodgy predatory co-worker Julio and Paul Ben-Victor as sleazy building supervisor Mr Johnson, who may well know more than he's telling. Fruitiest of all is Val Kilmer as the muttering occult obsessed Walter, the latest in a line of odd bit parts from an actor who once upon a time would likely have inhabited the lead role here.

German director Stephan Rick's previous features seem to have occupied some rather dark places, and The Super is no exception. It's good to see a film that doesn't offer its characters an easy way out, evidenced by the last shot, both redemptive and downbeat, which could give rise to one of cinema's more bizarre sequels. Not bad at all.

The Super is released on digital download from 22 October.

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