Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 06, 2020 7:25 pm 
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Browse depicts a thoroughly modern nightmare, and also has the virtue of being a horror movie that takes place largely in the daylight. It stars Lucas Haas in a rare-ish lead role as an ordinary man coming off a bad breakup who discovers his life is getting electronically taken over to ruin him and drive him crazy. He seems to have had his identify hacked via an invasion of all his devices after attempting online dating. Or perhaps it has nothing to do with the online dating.

Testin chokes us with trivia at first, weaving in hints of trouble. Richard (Haas) gets a notice from his office boss that they're downsizing and he has to get rid of three in his department. Since there only seems to be one and she's someone he seems quite close to, this puts him in a bind. Then he gets a call saying he's behind on his rental furniture and it's going to be repossessed. Who rents furniture for months and months? You begin to wonder what was wrong already before ll the trouble starts.

It's not till twenty minutes in that a suite of photographs and sad piano accompaniment review Richard's lost love. This is a pleasing passage because it's pretty and more visually complex than anything up to now. It ends with her standing, turning back in the foamy surf of a low tide. Maybe this was unnecessary, but it's a nice change of pace and it's backstory.

Meanwhile the online dating meet-up leads to two police officers coming to the door warning Richard the lady he talked to is threatening to put a restraining order on him. But he only talked to her briefly once. His apartment rent is two months overdue now and the landlord threatens eviction. But this and the furniture are supposed to be paid automatically.

Richard receives a UPS box full of packing peanuts with a pistol in it.

Now Richard has no furniture and may be losing his apartment, he's hopping mad and has a pistol, and that just in 24 hours. His ex-girlfriend calls to threaten action for his frequent harassing phone calls, which he did not make. Next morning, jolted from an uneasy sleep, he finds "Roxie" didn't wake him up on time for work and he's quite late: the time system was disconnected, but he didn't do it. He arrives at work late, sweaty and rumpled, to more bad news.

Richard, by the way, has a virtual reality headset he puts on from time to time. It plunges him into scary stuff. If it's a distraction he's seeking it's not a good one. Neither is hanging out with Kyle (Bodhi Elfman), a trivia-talking employee of the building, nor ogling a woman in a neighboring building with a camera in hand. All this sets up a thoroughly modern nightmare - while his actual nightmare of being hanged on a scaffold, is thoroughly old fashioned.

This is a little film, and though its trappings are contemporary it has a classic quality. It might be a "Twilight Zone" episode. To me is is satisfying to see Lucas Haas star in it, and I think it can be remembered for that. He's an actor with a kind of "cult" quality. He started so young, and is connected to big stars (Leo DiCaprio, Toby McGuire) as lead bro', pops up in videos and movies but remains low profile, making him a kind of cult figure, and also, because a less familiar face, good to play this unfortunate everyman. Let's hear it for Lucas Haas! And also, let's not that this is a hand-crafted feature for Mike Testin, because he's not only the director, but the cinematographer and editor of Browse. It has a very nice score, tunefully avoiding genre cliches, led by brilliant Paris-born jazz drummer Makaya McCraven. In the spirit of jazz the end credits list all individual band members and their instruments. The music makes it well worth staying for the last minute of those credits. With Sarah Rafferty and Chloe Bridges.

Browse, 85 mins., opens on VOD July 7, 2020. Watch it HERE (Spectrum).

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