Director: C.A. Cooper
Starring: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren
Production Company: Uncork’d Entertainment
Runtime: 90 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Watch: In theaters and On Demand Jan. 6th, 2017
Summary: Three friends head to the seafront for a drunken weekend, only to be imprisoned on the top floor of their holiday apartment by a malevolent paranormal force.
When Alice followed a rabbit and descended into Wonderland, she had no idea what she was in for, and emerged with a new sense of self, for better or worse. Such is the journey that our Alice embarks upon in C.A. Cooper’s psychological horror film, The Snare. The film locks us in with three mates as they devolve into madness and mayhem. Tangible characters, no-slack tension, and beautiful composition with a memorable score culminate in 90 minutes of disorienting dread.
The opening credits centering around a decaying white rabbit give you a stark picture of what you’re in for. Parallels with Alice in Wonderland abound in The Snare, including themes of maturity and the loss of innocence. It’s no coincidence that the protagonists’ name in The Snare is Alice. She’s a young woman who lives with her widower father, with whom she has a testy relationship. At the start of the movie, he enters her room while she’s changing and makes no effort to accommodate her sense of privacy or her obvious discomfort at his presence. She keeps a journal that she closely guards at all times, especially from her father. She also still keeps a childhood teddy bear, which amplifies a running subtext: Alice is a growing young woman who, in many ways, is still a child grappling with her lost innocence. Two earth-shattering events occurred early in Alice’s life that culminated in that lost innocence: the death of her mother, and another experience that can’t be explicitly mentioned without spoilers. These events form the earwig that eats away at Alice’s psyche throughout the film, causing her to question everything from her identity to her memory to the fabric of reality itself. Alice is an incredibly well-developed but reserved character; only her most relevant backstory is revealed, and only when absolutely necessary.
Alice and two of her friends, Carl and Liz, head up to a fully-furnished but unoccupied seaside flat for a quiet weekend. From the moment they arrive, Tim Johnson’s haunting score sets the tone and establishes the apartment building as more foreboding than its innocuous exterior suggests. Unfortunately, the beautiful soundtrack felt forced in its application at times, showing up before anything happens in many scenes. While the low, rumbling tones were effective in building dread, the filmmakers utilized the music as a way to prompt tension, rather than amplify it. It was noticeable and detracted from the well-built atmosphere, and could’ve been avoided entirely by simply waiting a few seconds before telling the audience that they should be scared.
Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren are in excellent form as Alice, Carl, and Liz, respectively. From the very beginning, Liz is an antithesis of Alice. She’s a free-wheeling party girl who has no problem breaking the rules and cozying up with her boyfriend, Carl. Carl has a tense relationship with Alice immediately, which gets progressively worse once they arrive at the flat. When the trio realizes that they are stuck there and no one is coming for them, the tensions rise exponentially with each passing day. Food supply runs low. The water cuts off. Noises are heard. Things are seen. All the while, tempers are getting shorter and shorter while our Alice has longer and longer periods to be alone with her thoughts, which isn’t good.
The Snare has been compared to Evil Dead, but it’s far closer to Kubrick’s The Shining, in spirit and in craft. Cooper creates an atmosphere echoing that of The Overlook Hotel, only allowing the characters and the audience to have a vague sense of time via the weather, as viewed through the balcony. Isolation and entrapment are the motifs of the day; the film is filled with close, intimate shots of Alice that isolate her from her peers, and intricate staging that frames her in enclosed spaces. She is the fly, and the building has her in its web. For a film that doesn’t have the outright terror of a single boogeyman chasing the protagonist around, The Snare keeps a strong sense of dread throughout, and builds tension well. Jump scares are used sparingly and to great effect, as a tension-reliever rather than as a crutch. I found a special pleasure in seeing one of Alice’s horrifying nighttime visions, as it was clearly inspired by the crawling ghoul of Japanese horror, right down to the creepy death rattle.
The Snare is a thrilling reminder that good horror can be original and deep. Tumble down the rabbit hole and escape from the countless franchise remakes and reboots. Let The Snare give you a bit of Cheshire Cat wisdom, which happens to be the horror genre’s utmost maxim: “We’re all mad here.”
Horror Writer’s Rating: 4/5 stars.
The Snare is available in theaters and on demand January 6th, 2017.