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Featured DVD Review: The Presence

October 4th, 2011

The Presence - Buy from Amazon

The Presence is a film that debuted at the Rhode Island International Film Festival in 2010 and was picked up earlier this year by Lionsgate. That distributor has had a better track record than most when it comes to finding smaller films that are hidden gems. Will The Presence be another success story? Or is it one of countless similar low budget horror films that will be lost in the crowd?

The Movie

The film starts at a remote cabin by the lake with a Man living a rather lonely and depressed existence. One rainy night, a Woman arrives at the cabin and begins to move in. She's clearly been there before (she even remembers the closet door will close on its own). While she's moving in, the man watches her, but she doesn't see him, because he's not a man, but a Ghost. (This is a major spoiler, but an unavoidable one. Also, it happens very, very early in the film.)

The Woman's life of isolation is clearly happier than the Ghost's was and she's there for a reason, not that we know what it is. The only person she talks to is Mr. Browman, who runs the local store, although local in this case means something different than it does for most people. He comes in to deliver some goods by boat, but has to leave right away, much to her dismay. Things have begun to get a little creepy and she could use the company. The next day its even worse and just as she's starting to freak out, her Boyfriend arrives. This is where things start to get weird, even for the Ghost.

That's right, this is a ghost movie where the ghost starts to get creeped out by what's happening. That's a pretty unique twist. It's also a good place to stop before we get into really big spoilers.

This is a horror film that generates scares by slowly building tension. The key world here is slowly. Even fans of the movie will admit the film has a deliberate pace. Those who don't like it will be a lot less kind. To emphasize the pace of the film. For the first six minutes there is almost no movement. For the first sixteen, there's no dialog. At this moment, some are thinking, 'No thanks.' While others are saying to themselves, 'I'm intrigued.' Fortunately, I like these kinds of films. I prefer horror that is based on more on mood rather than jump scares or gore. (Although if I'm in the mood, a gory horror comedy is also very fun to watch.) While there were not a lot of moment where I jumped in my seat, there were several places where a chill went up my spine and I got goosebumps.

I was particularly impressed by the film's cast. Normally low budget films are filled with actors with limited experience, but here everyone is amazing. It helps that there were only seven parts in the movie, a few of which have very limited screen time in the movie. The reason I accepted the chance to review this movie was because it has Mira Sorvino in it and I think she's an underrated actress. (Although it's a little strange to call an actress who has won an Oscar underrated.) Shane West had a very difficult acting challenge from this movie; he only says three words in the entire film and for a lot of the movie, he barely moves. It's hard to act under those circumstances, but he does it.

The Extras

The extras on this DVD start with an audio commentary track with writer / director / producer Tom Provost, who talks a great amount how the genesis of the film, films that served as inspirations for him, mistakes he made, etc. There are a couple dead spots in the track, but it is more energetic than most solo tracks. There is also a 22-minute making of featurette. It goes over some of the same points, but we do get to hear from other voices from both sides of the camera. Finally, there are some storyboards with a commentary track with Tom Provost and Cecily Rhett, the editor. She gives a lot more information and this featurette is better than a lot of similar "storyboard to screen" comparisons.

The Verdict

The Presence is much better than I was expecting. I was hoping for a moderately effective horror film, but I got a lot more. Fans of ghost movies will want to check it out. The DVD has better extras than I was expecting for this type of release and it is worth picking up.

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