Co-directed/written by Patrick R. Young and Powell Robinson, Threshold (2020) is their 2nd collaboration and is a project which proves that the pairing is a match made in heaven for producing emotionally hard-hitting dialogue and beautifully shaded cinematography. Due to begin streaming on May 3rd, Threshold is an impressive technical achievement by the fact that it was shot on iPhone 8 pluses; its picture quality was improved by the use of a lens attachment and post-production color grading to achieve its moody atmosphere.
Starring Joey Millin and Madison West in heavily improvised performances as brother-sister duo Leo and Virginia, Threshold follows them reuniting after years of estrangement when Virginia reaches out to Leo for help. When Virginia claims that a cult she accidentally joined has bound her physical and emotional sensations to a man she doesn’t know, Leo begrudgingly accompanies her on a road trip to track down the unknown man, agreeing on the condition that she go to rehab if it all turns out to be a tall tale. Stranger and stranger unexplained events happen as the pair close in on the unknown man, forcing Leo to face the sickening reality of an evil cult’s dark practices.
Young and Robinson played with lightness and darkness a lot to achieve the distinct look and vibe of Threshold; I found that the sun sometimes seemed oddly bright, while the evening and indoor shots were very shaded, creating a contrast of positive and ominous tones. This contrast worked to highlight the similarly shaded brother and sister relationship, that itself experienced positive and ominous tones as the pair went through highs and lows resolving their estrangement. With both characters enduring personal emotional turmoils — Leo’s being real-world based as his character is in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce, and conversely, Virginia is near helpless in a supernatural chokehold from a sinister cult — needless to say, Threshold is an emotionally charged film.
The horror aspects are not lost in the melodrama of Threshold‘s central theme of rekindled family relations, however, as the meat and potatoes of this film are served in its moments of chilling intensity and perfectly queued, panic-inducing jumpscares. Threshold is a suspenseful thriller that was edited in such a way to leave room for the audience to guess whether the driving force of its characters’ perils was either psychological/drug-based or supernatural-based — at least for a while. In its finale, Threshold delivers a visually shocking and perfectly structured scene that allows the storyline to end in an unexpected way. Though I enjoyed the movie overall, there was what I found to be a minor plothole in this climax missing a glaring step in how the initial ritual was described, however, despite its minor dip logic I commend the choice in ending and would only wish that more focus of the film was given to the actual cult, which only really got to shine its evil light in the movie’s effective twist ending.
Keeping the cast so small thrusts the audience into Leo and Virginia’s fragmented relationship at an uncomfortably intimate level, but visually, Young and Robinson constantly take a step back, capturing beautiful wide shots throughout the film. Threshold strikes an odd balance as it is just as much of an occult horror movie as it is a family road-trip movie, equipped with all the trappings that both genre films are known for, save for possibly some comedy — there is nothing comedic about Threshold, it is an emotionally raw, performance-driven film that doesn’t let go, not even until its final second, which is possibly the best shot of the movie!
6.75 out of 10 Pretentious Broken Records