The end of Fantasia Int’l Film Festival is behind us. But that doesn’t mean my reviews have to be! Here’s my review for Indiana. IMDB says it’s from 2015, but I’m putting this year in the title anyway. Enjoy!
Michael is a “spirit doctor” who specializes in removing “demonic attachments, human ghosts, and UFO violations” from people. His day job (something to do with insurance?) is unfulfilling and his social life is nil, and he’s not finding the existential answers he seeks in spirit doctoring either. This leaves him rather melancholic. When he’s not assessing claims or helping people with their supernatural afflictions, he drifts through his eerily empty house, ending up on the couch watching the same movie every night. His partner, Josh, is an aging metalhead who hasn’t changed his personal style since the 80s. Josh’s personal life is a bit of a shambles so he’s wrapped his whole existance up in his spirit doctor work. Michael’s waning enthusiasm for that work threatens to leave Josh adrift and facing myriad adult responsibilities. But each new case seems to anchor (nautical theme!) Michael for just a little longer. Their latest case just might validate their work in ways that Michael thought impossible.
Indiana is quintessential indie horror. I’m using “indie” in the “quiet drama” sense of the term. Indiana checks the boxes of the defining characteristics that jump to mind when you hear the term in that context. It’s understated. It has a small cast. It is low-budget. It features unknown actors. Dialogue is sparse and direct (and sometimes poorly delivered or badly ADR’ed but that’s not a dealbreaker). The editing is deliberately-paced. And the story is smart and unconventional. Director, Toni Comas, uses all of these tropes to great advantage. The ennui of existence after a crushing loss is portrayed intelligently and with empathy. The audience is sad and dejected and hoping for some spiritual / cosmic sign that we’re not alone even without ever being shown explicitly why the protagonist feels that way. We experience Michael’s pain even though we never see him express that pain externally. We understand Josh’s desperation without exposition. The film masterfully gives its audience just enough for us to build our own stories for these men. The trust required by the filmmakers to take this approach is laudable. Especially in a niche film like this. The gamble pays off in this case. The result is a haunting slice-of-life that relies on its sympathetic characters and quiet, charged atmosphere to instill dread in the viewer.
The Final Cut: Indiana is a smart, understated supernatural thriller that expertly makes the most of its simple story and tortured protagonists.