The paranormal – with all its weirdness and curiosities – finally took a boost with writer-director Tom Provost’ stunning film – “The Presence” – making its way October 4, 2011, to a DVD box near you.
Provost simply invented something new in the paranormal movie genre and made 87 minutes of pure fun and adventure in this darkly romantic feature film.
All the basics are there – and more – as we cross a foggy lake to our remote cabin destination complete with no electricity or indoor plumbing. Translation: The characters use hastily-lit lanterns after dark and must walk to a creepy outhouse in a wooded patch behind the cabin for late-night bathroom breaks.
Now I don’t want to shock you before you’ve inserted the disc into your flat screen, but there’s no dialogue in the first 25 minutes. And surprisingly, it’s not missed while we’re introduced to a young woman apparently on retreat and to a very quiet, wide-eyed, handsome male spirit inside the cabin who’s politely curious about the new tenant from “the other side.”
What surprised and trapped me in that first half-hour was the methodical badgering of intense quality in every corner of the screen. It’s kind of like what Provost kept out of the film that enlarged the story and made it remarkable.
While the trip across a foggy lake set spooky in motion, even the opening credits were incredibly interesting to watch. And without all that talking – we’re guessing Hollywood was not paying by the word on this one – your mind is saturated with the visual and the sound of haunting. The cabin itself is a portrait of lost time. The lighting incredibly natural. And the sounds and music we hear tell a story in itself in a way other storytellers failed while they “blablablaed” you to death with sick details and corny scare tactics.
Provost decided instead to leave no stone unturned and to simply treat the audience as innocently sophisticated – but once you step inside the Provost world – he tears you apart with cinematic tools Hitchcock-style.
The cast is an ensemble-style unit that fits perfectly inside this paranormal landscape.
Mira Sorvino is “the woman” we meet right up front – a Harvard grad who majored in Chinese – who first appeared as Laura in the 1993 independent gangster film, “Amongst Friends,” appearing alongside Dad, Michael Sorvino; then in an Oscar-winning award as Best Supporting Actress in the 1995 Wood Allen film, “Mighty Aphrodite.” Sorvino brings unrelenting character strength to the film while blending well with all the cinematic tools Provost tosses out. It’s a performance you may well recall in movement rather than dialogue in a film where tense might be better defined by a stare.
Shane West shares those early moments with Sorvino as the “ghost” whose routine seems to be pure curiosity like he’s a teenage boy peaking through window blinds at some late-night female attraction. The Louisiana-born actor was first seen in ABC’s successful “Once and Again” series in 54 episodes between 1999 and 2002; but you may also catch this guy writing and playing guitar in his band, Average Jo.
Enter Oregon-born Justin Kirk – the actual setting for the film – just as Provost is introducing dialogue – a gifted stage actor who brings his own personal intensity to this remote place. Kirk may prove to be your choice for the film’s stand-out performer as his character is allowed to ask all those questions the audience is screaming for. But Kirk never runs off with this important tool; instead seamlessly blending that emotion with the other cast and allowing the story to roll along in Provost’s devilish way.
Tony Curran is the “man in black” – born in Glasgow, Scottland, UK – whose character swings the mood and intensity of this film in almost a mildly comical way – well, evil comical – allowing new emotions to spew from the spiritual side. Just when you thought you had the film figured out – Curran is the curve ball leading you to play ball Provost’s way where the paranormal is suddenly alive and dead all at the same time.
Additional performances are brought to you by Muse Watson, another stage actor who moved to film and has appeared in 51 feature movies – and plays Mr. Browman, the kindly older gentleman who operates a boating service on the lake; and DeobiaOparei, “the Woodsman,” whose role may surprise you as the story winds down.
The story of “The Presence” is a simple blending of the past meeting the future – a seamless bond between cinematic tools – where sound and lighting, crew and cast, titles and props, all got it right and shared the experience instead of any one element out-shining the other. Provost created a film that is both timeless and enduring.
So slide that DVD in. Turn off the lights. And sit back for a thrill. Highly recommended. We only hope Provost has no time to read this review and is instead out making another film. Watch the trailer.