Friday, May 26, 2017

Sam Was Here (2017)

 Christophe Deroo


Christophe Deroo
Clement Tuffreau


Rusty Joiner
Rhoda Pell
Sigrid La Chapelle
Hassan Galedary


Set in 1998, Sam is a door to door salesman. While travelling through the Californian Mojave Desert, he is on the lookout for new clients. Everywhere seems to be void of human life. When he starts to receive threatening messages and hears on the radio that a child killer is on the loose named Sam, he begins to start coming into contact with people who are trying to kill him. Is he really the killer or is he losing his grip on reality?

What caught my eye about Sam Was Here was the poster for this movie. The poster art doesn't give much away at all. The poster features a car with its brake lights on that is pulled into a darkened and desolate motel. Looking at the poster for the film I was seriously under the pretence that I was about to watch a movie in the same vein as Vacancy and Identity. These are a couple of films that I really enjoyed and still do to this day. I was excited to see what this film would deliver.

Sam Was Here runs at a very short seventy-five minutes. For a movie that short, I was hoping for a tight and taut little horror flick. I was hoping for a film that would wrap itself up in a neat little package. Sadly, this is a movie with a lot of problems. The first being the running time. Had the plot been fleshed out more, maybe twenty minutes longer or even had the script had more attention paid to it, I may have had an actual film that was a lot clearer in vision.

The movie starts out pretty strong as well as strange. We get a man who is alone in the desert. He is going door to door of trailer homes to old petrol stations, trying to find clients. These early desolate scenes are beautifully shot and very eerie. I found myself quite intrigued with where this story was heading. This movie has this sense of dread quite early on. Once things start to spiral out of control, this is where the film starts to go off the rails.

Once the movie has our door to door salesman on the receiving end of a sniper rifle, this is where the movie really loses its way. The story descends into a very odd little cat and mouse game. Our character is introduced to a range of people wearing masks who are on the hunt and trying to kill him. The movie gives us little hints as to why these people may be on the hunt for him, but it's never really explained. The story goes from a man alone to a man being hunted and never once is it laid out for the audience. This is left up to us to interpret what is taking place.

If you are looking for a movie that gives you answers, you are looking at the wrong film. This plays out, and nothing makes sense in the end. This is trying to be weird with a story that doesn't spell anything out for you. I'm usually down for a film that plays with the audience. A movie that doesn't hand you an easy answer on a silver platter. Sadly, I think the filmmaker and writer also don't get what Sam Was Here is about. I think they had an idea somewhere in there, yet they just couldn't execute it as it just sort of spirals out of control, and I was left scratching my head.

Where this movie also has issues is that it tries to introduce an almost alien or sci-fi type twist to the story. Several times throughout, we see a glowing red light descend from the sky, and again, it's never explained as to why it's there. Had this film done away with the red light and possible UFO-like themes, and was instead a straight up cat and mouse game of a father who may have killed his own child and is on the run and now has a group of weird people who are chasing him down at the behest of a mother who wants revenge. I think while more simple in story, it may have played more smoothly. This entire thing is messy.

When it comes to the cinematography in this film, I cannot recommend this enough. Director Christophe Deroo has turned in a gorgeously shot little thriller. The wide and open landscape shots of the Mojave Desert are stunning. This entire production while making no sense, I simply cannot fault this on an aesthetic level. It deserves to be seen just for the camera work. The film also starts off strongly when delivering the suspense. Sadly by the end of the film, all intensity is lost when the film tries to go weird but is a swing and a miss.

Lastly, the acting in the film all hangs on the shoulders of actor Rusty Joiner. While there are other actors in this movie, most are wearing creepy masks. This is the sort of story that puts our leading man through his paces and for the most part, he really delivers. He is shot, beaten up, slashed and a range of other things. As a once model turned actor, I think he delivers a solid performance. For most of this film, he is on the verge of a breakdown, and I felt for his character.



- Someone is shot in the shoulder.
- Someone is slashed in the face with a knife.
- A woman knocks boiling water onto her own face.
- Someone is shot in the stomach by a shotgun.
- Someone is strangled to death with a phone cord.

Sam Was Here is something of a misfire. The film starts out pretty well, and I found myself quite intrigued with where things were heading in the story. What starts as an eerie and at times creepy cat and mouse game throws in what appears to be an alien-like subplot that goes off the rails. The biggest blunder that this film makes is that it just ends without explaining any of the seventy-five minutes that happens before it. You can interpret this as a man in his own personal Hell for the murder of a child. I just felt that it wasn't executed well. Some great cinematography and a solid lead performance can't save this psychological thriller.

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