I have to be honest. I’m not one hundred percent sure of what I just watched. The synopsis of Companion is simple enough – “Across a post-apocalyptic landscape haunted by spirits, a guilt-stricken woman must choose to abandon her husband or die with him.” Makes sense to me, certainly. Ella (Anna Flynn) and Gus (Marcus Anthony) are facing the end of the world side by side. Unfortunately in this version of the end of the world, there are mysterious zombie/ghost hybrids called “companions,” who are attracted to your fear. This is where my mind starts to wander…
A bevy of seemingly unrelated and too-typical characters (or caricatures), ranging from a priest to a curmudgeonly cowboy join the fray, as Gus is left for dead and Ella is left to make some tough choices to stay alive. From there, the stakes continue to drop lower and lower. Gus isn’t dead, but has a bizarre vengeful vendetta against aforementioned curmudgeonly cowboy Abner (Russell Shealy) for taking Ella away from him… in spite of Gus telling Abner in no uncertain terms to do so. Ella is grieving, but also, sort of, not. Abner shows much more grief for his lost family. Somewhere along the line there’s hope of getting to someplace called “Bodega” and the endless chase and cat and mouse continues.
If you haven’t figured it out from what I’ve said so far – Companion is confusing, confused, aimless, and easily half an hour longer than necessary. Interesting character design for the companions themselves, combined with less-than-perfect but well meaning digital effects, make for a unique creature aspect that makes up far less of the film than it should. The acting is sub-par from most, with some standout moments from Shealy. It is hard for me to get into a film where the main characters are not particularly likeable, and not well introduced before the proverbial you-know-what starts to hit the fan. Stakes are low at best, and then the continual contrived, petulant drama doesn’t do much to help drive your empathy for anyone involved.
Companion suffers from not-enough editing, and too-much guesswork for the audience. Nothing is ever fully explained, and the reveals are confusing and blindsiding at best. Which begs the question – were there ever answers to begin with, or twists to reveal? Or is this just another half-baked attempt at cheap hot-button horror?
Oh- and by the way – Companion also features a completely unnecessary, completely out-of-left-field rape/assault scene. I am, as I hope my loyal readers know by now, the sovereign of content and trigger warnings – and thus am providing one I wish I had been extended. Moreover, there is no reason for this scene to occur. Yes, I understand, we need to know this is a wild west, post-apocalyptic hellscape. The lack of power and water, excitement about canned goods, disgusting clothes, and weird zombie-ghosts are more than enough to inform me of that. Sadly, and it pains me to have to bring this up at all, the male gaze is slathered all over this film, which includes a completely unneeded scene of targeted violence against a woman.
Companion was a disappointment from beginning to end, in spite of best efforts by a wickedly talented makeup and effects team, decent editing, and a great cinematographer. Tragically misinformed and malformed.
3 out of 10