Admittedly, Threshold has an interesting technical concept as a horror/thriller combined with a road trip mumblecore/indie drama, improvised by the two leads and shot on two iPhones. It’s always impressive to see such moxie and go-get-’em spirit in filmmakers—to take the low-fi, low-budget route with high concepts for the time and run with them—even if there are flaws. Without similar visionary filmmakers, we never would have got Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, or Evil Dead.
Synopsis for Threshold (2021):
When a phone call from out of the blue brings Leo (Joey Millin) back into contact with his sister, Virginia (Madison West), long estranged from her family due to years of drug abuse, he arrives to find her alone in a bare apartment in the midst of an apparent overdose. After the convulsions and nausea subside, Virginia insists to Leo that she has been clean for 8 months due to the help of a mysterious group. She confides to her cynical brother that her edginess and paranoia actually stem from a sinister ritual conducted by the group that took her in at her lowest and eventually revealed themselves to be a cult. This curse bound her emotions and physical sensations to a man she has never met before.
With his marriage on the rocks, Leo has his own demons to face. Nonetheless, he is reluctantly persuaded by Virginia to embark on a cross-country road trip to track down this shadowy stranger under the caveat that if he’s nowhere to be found and it’s all in her head, she’ll go to rehab. However, as their date with destiny draws nearer, Leo begins to suspect his sister’s tall tale might have some substance.
Rather than go off on the things I found off or lacking about the film like I normally would, I would like to talk about the parts of the film that worked for me. Joey Millin and Madison West give impressive performances, naturally sliding into their characters and their fractured familial dynamic from the word go. While the film had long pauses between moments showing or implying horror, I never once felt like the actors and the characters weren’t one and the same on camera. Also, like I mention in the opener, I appreciate the inventiveness and tenacity of the crew—Threshold was was done largely with a skeleton crew of three people besides the leads—and the fact the film still has a cohesive narrative that doesn’t show obvious signs of mass reshoots despite it being largely improvised.
Unfortunately, cohesive does not equal dynamic or engaging. As was lightly touched upon earlier, the actual horror of the film appears few and far between, frankly being compartmentalized to 3 short scenes. The most tense segment of Threshold comes from a surprise appearance of an addict who decides to threaten the two for perceived drugs at an AirBnB they rent along the way after he sees Virginia convulsing from her paranormal bond. Aside from that, there are large chunks where the siblings reconnect through dialogue while on their road trip. I got an ironic laugh out of the film delivering a “Take that!” to Garden State and other indie drama tropes when the film spends so much time focusing on the characters over the promised horror.
The visuals are also eclectic. At times there are some interesting shots that piqued my curiosity. At other times, there are obvious signs of the restrictions of the tech and budget. More than a few times, the film goes from a cleaner, more cinematic look to a shaky, out of focus, found footage aesthetic that is disruptive narratively because it only makes me think of what happened to the production rather than what is happening on screen/narratively.
Overall, though technology and budget restricted the vision of the directors Patrick Robert Young and Powell Robinson more than their pumped up creativity, the overall direction of the lead actors is extremely impressive and engaging. Though be warned, gorehounds. The film focuses far more on drama than horror.
Threshold premiered May 3 exclusively on Arrow. Arrow is available in the US, Canada, and the UK on the following apps/devices: Roku (all Roku sticks, boxes, devices, etc), Apple TV & iOS devices, Android TV and mobile devices , Fire TV (all Amazon Fire TV Sticks, boxes, etc), and on all web browsers.