dir. Sean King O’Grady
There is something wonderful to be said for a simple story: a single location, a primitive struggle for survival, the complexities of family dynamics condensed into ninety-seven minutes of horror. This is the offer of director Sean King O’Grady’s mid-pandemic feature debut.
After a storm forces a family to seek shelter in their bathroom, they find themselves stuck when a tree falls, blocking the door. Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) is terrifying and hilarious as Robert, the unhinged patriarch of the family, desperate to maintain control of an impossible situation. Healy steals every scene he’s in – which is pretty much every scene – and while the style of his performance may not be to all tastes it is his distinctive strangeness that feeds into the undercurrent of “What the hell is happening?”: a question audiences will surely be uttering to themselves.
As time passes without word from the outside Robert, his wife Diane (Vinessa Shaw), teenage daughter Melissa (Sierra McCormick) and son Bobby (John James Cronin) must contend with hunger, snakes, simmering rage, secrets, and all the stress that comes from being stranded with one’s family.
With a few well-placed flashbacks, we learn of a possible explanation for what threatens to be an apocalyptic situation, but most of the time chaos overwhelms reason. Melissa worries about her goth-girlfriend, Bobby insists that Diane repeat the story of his birth, Robert guzzles mouth wash like it’s Johnnie Walker Black, and hope steadily seems lost as the hours tick by with no trace of help.
All four actors are outstanding – a necessity with such a sparse story – and the film exudes tangible dread that creeps in from every corner of the claustrophobic bathroom. There are moments of great gore, suspense that never bores, and the film offers thought-provoking empathy as viewers wonder what they would do in this situation. Some of us may have experienced similar isolation with family during the months of Covid lockdown, but it’s a good bet that for many it wasn’t as bad as what this family goes through.