These two spooky moments prompt Sam to re-open the old case of the missing girl and, in the process, reopen some of the associated wounds that have lingered since the girl’s disappearance. Against the wishes of her uncle, who happens to be the Chief of Police, but with the help of Abdi Khan (Gabe Grey) who was lead detective on the Katie Owens case, Sam finds herself drawn into the secrets and lies that surround the events of that prom night and strange happenings since that seem linked to an old book of occult practices that include the goat-man, the number nine and a strange symbol that keeps popping up just about everywhere Sam goes.
There’s some genuine mystery and suspense in this tale that’s working from a strong screenplay written by the co-directors and realised through some nice, underplayed performances by a uniformly talented cast. Correia- Damude finds a cool, remote aloofness in Sam that makes her vulnerable enough for us to care about but abrasive enough not to completely trust. Ironside is also good as the uncle who clearly knows more than he’s letting on. Unlike some movies that attach a ‘known’ genre actor to the cast list to generate some marketing heat, he’s really in this film and gives us a considered performance that makes the most of the handful of scenes he has. What really works for this movie, though, is the depth of character in the many smaller roles that crop up as Sam conducts her unofficial investigation. Most notable amongst these are Allegra Fulton who gives a nicely unhinged performance as Maggie Owen, the mother of the missing girl, and Shannon McDonough who is slightly hilarious as Pat, the motel receptionist who plays against the icy Sam in a couple of scenes that come at just the right time to break the tension of the main story.
That said, the screenplay is not without its problems. The occult element is well developed in the early part of the film but ultimately doesn’t really lead to as much as you might hope for as the denouement plays out. Likewise, the ‘confession’ that takes us into those final scenes and the revelation of the truth seems to come out of nowhere ending up more as a narrative function than a logical breaking down of a character who can no longer keep the secret in. Perhaps the biggest risk of the narrative, though, is the decision to give us an ending that explains the mystery of the past but doesn’t entirely deliver a satisfying conclusion to the present. I’m in two minds about how I feel about how much we’re left hanging as the credits roll.
Back on the plus side, though, one of the many strengths of this movie is the visually compelling cinematography by Michael Caterina. His photographic style is not just a delight to look at but plays a big part in both the moodiness of the piece and the tension of the more suspenseful elements. This, together with a great soundtrack by indie pop band Cults, along with the performances and the bulk of the writing, elevates this movie beyond its few less successful elements, to be a really solid and at times quite suspenseful mystery.