If one recalls the movie Home Alone (1990), as just a comedic family fun flick, then you’re partial correct, it’s also in the wheelhouse of thrillers under home-invasion, so why bring that up? Since then often filmmakers tried to turn the story into a darker and creepier tale of woe including director Michael Peterson, who assisted writers Kevin Cockle and Jordan Scott in creating a twisted, tension filled storyline with his film Knuckleball distributed by Freestyle Digital Media. It takes the classic setup, mixes with the real threat of both environmental horrors and physical and suggestive sexual harm of a child, then layered with twists, and lastly discover clues of the larger puzzle. The film does a solid job of building suspension, and effectively making the movie very entertaining as well as containing Hitchcockian themes.
The movie starts with feuding parents Mary and Paul (Kathleen Munroe and Chenier Hundal) driving out to middle of nowhere after a fresh new snowfall, (great ariel shots likely drone compositions establishing pictures) as their son Henry (Luca Villacis) silently sits in the backseat isolated in his own world, as they arrive to Mary’s childhood home. A first-time visit, awkward, the emotional situation speaks volumes of a larger plot, as she stares at a barn (almost gave away too much), anyway Henry needs to stay a few days while they attend a very private funeral. Sad no one else to take care of him, however meeting his grandfather Jacob (Michael Ironside (Scanners ), a welcoming moment with a child in his technology shell and meeting a gruff outdoorsy gentleman. They quickly start bonding finding a love for baseball and Henry’s ability to throw various series of pitches, at no time is Jacob mean or cruel to him, rather protective and showing kindness. Then enter a nearby neighbor Dixon (Munro Chambers), checking in on Jacob, their private talks heated, again the information kept from viewers, thankfully, Peterson gives and takes freely, building tensions, letting the audience to learn more when he’s ready. Dixon, clearly creepy, but unsure why, however, he’s attracted to the barn too, whoops their I go again, sorry no spoilers. A supposedly unexpected circumstance finds Henry by himself alone on the farm and calls to his parents go unanswered and remembers Dixon and heads to his place in the fresh snow, he lives a tad scuzzy and enjoys torture porn. Every action of Dixon’s alarms Henry, and the inquisitive 12-year-old, warnings start going off caught in this new web, nervous confidence and false cunning abilities, this begins a game of Tom and Jerry literally playing out, with hints Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street dotting the screen. Once more limited information given to design the larger plot and horrific meanings without giving the audience any backstory, only what’s needed to enjoy the suspense driven film.
It omits large volume of blood spatter, but the brutality at times shown clearly through rage, and likely to deliver goosebumps along with seat-rocking for those not into suspense driven movies. Peterson, gets very close to a dark place, though never crossing a suggestive line, in the snow. Villacis, generates interest with the character’s vulnerability through his delivery, the emotional struggles, against the ruthless of the situations of his character. A great change of Peterson also did make the victim a child, and a boy on the threshold of teenage years, instead of the customary woman, hence a ‘final girl’ showing the intelligence of Henry through his actions and supported by strong smart script writing. In addition, any sexual threat to innocent, especially the wholesomeness of a child alarms the viewers and engages them further into the film.
Most of the aspects in the movie work very nice together, the cinematography, location, but it’s the acting that gives the movie everything to alarm the viewers. The performances solid and very realistic actions of determination, and fear from Villacis, while battling Dixon. Speaking of the character of Dixon, Chambers masterfully plays this character well, maybe a hint too much creepiness too early on, then again, most crazy characters really don’t they are insane, it’s society that appears nuts. While the cast relatively small the contributions as a whole matters, along with direction making a solid production, and one with emotional gripping impact to achieve more thrilling moments. Do a few horror clichés exist, yes, but without most films likely end 15 minutes after starting, people wouldn’t go in the house, woods, cemetery or even to venture uncertain situations, however monsters never follow the rules.
This movie caught my attention, and while I saw a few blemishes, it all works as a thriller, some viewers will likely yearn for more horror, but it’s not that type of home invasion movie, it does leave a vague ending. All families have secrets and some of those innocent, even perhaps a bit tantalizing, and others deadly, facing them in real-life while nature deals a harsh storm, limits one’s options quickly, therefore sometimes one can’t bury their head in the snow, and needs to deal with them in a vicious manner.
IMDb Rating: 6.6/10
Baron’s Rating: 6.5/10