Based on the works of philosophic horror writer Thomas Ligotti, In a Foreign Town was a gorgeous atmospheric journey into metaphors for society and mental illness. Outstanding cinematography, stunning visuals, and a stellar cast make this film the perfect representation (or introduction for first-timers) into Ligotti’s work.
The film follows mental patient Mr. Hatcher (Yuri Lowenthal) as he undergoes a counseling session with the typical “creepy mental hospital doctor” type, Dr. Groddeck (Tony Amendola). While revisiting his childhood, Mr. Hatcher’s repressed memory of a trip to the carnival and his encounter with “The Showman” surfaces. In a Foreign Town was originally a book containing four short stories and was released in conjunction with Current 93’s 1997 album of the same name.
The cinematography in In a Foreign Town was truly spectacular. Slow zooms, quick flashbacks, and scenes slowly pulsing from blurry to crystal clear catapult the film into an eerie dreamlike state. Additionally, at one point the scene focuses on Mr. Hatcher, but we are only able to see as a reflection in Dr. Goddeck’s glasses. This further enforces the idea that deciphering what is real and only a reflection of reality is almost impossible.
In a Foreign Town is a place devoid of cheap scares. Rather, it is a world built around mystery and an unshakeable feeling that something really bad is about to happen. That anticipation carries through the entire film and creates a unique terror all its own. The narrative isn’t incredibly straightforward, but it doesn’t need to be. We are introduced and immersed into a world that is very true to the original source material, and the dream-like tale being told is less dependent on clear story details and more so on atmospheric immersion, and writer-director Michael Shlain executed that immersion flawlessly.
The cast is small but mighty. Yuri Lowenthal delights as the unstable yet aware Mr. Hatcher. And if ever there was a sinister mental asylum psychiatrist, it can definitely be found in Tony Amendola and his performance and Dr. Groddeck. Jack McGraw plays young Mr. Hatcher, and is an absolute delight, he is subtle and innocent and bursting with talent. Special recognition should be noted of Strange Dave and his performance as The Showman. His ability to contort and communicate volumes with only his posture was quite captivating.
In a Foreign Town is a short that acts as an appetizer. You get a taste and it is absolutely delicious on its own, but you are left even hungrier than when you started, anxious for more. I sincerely hope Michael Shlain and Butcher Bird Studios have more Ligotti-tricks up their sleeve. I’m not saying I need it but… I NEED IT.
Want to see what all the fuss is about free of charge? Watch In a Foreign Town HERE.
9 out of 10