Fantasia Film Festival Movie Review: THERAPY (2016)

When I was 16, I was focused on boy bands and getting through high school in one piece.  Very few people find success at such a young age so when I heard that 16 year old Nathan Ambrosioni had a full length film out at the age of 14 and was releasing his newest one that not only did he write but also direct I was floored.  My biggest achievement at 16 was being able to see *NSYNC live in the front row, so going into Ambrosioni’s latest film, THERAPY, I was not sure what to expect; I’m happy to report that I wasn’t the least bit let down. THERAPY stars Nathalie Couturier, Remy Jobert, Luna Belan, Shelley Ward, Julien Croquet, Tania Rieu and Vanessa Azzopardi and is a unique take on the found footage genre that combines detective work and a twist to the story.

I’m a sucker for jump scares and I’m not saying that they should be in every movie but sometimes they are incredibly effective and in the case of THERAPY they worked out perfectly.  The story focuses on two police detectives, who upon discovering video equipment in an abandoned house, race against the clock to find out what happened to five people who went on a holiday.  I won’t say that this was the most original idea or the best movie I’ve seen, but what I will say is that I was incredibly impressed with Ambrosioni’s directing and his ability to cause a rise in tension that left me terrified and shaken.  That night, my boyfriend wasn’t going to be returning into late in the evening and I remember when it was time to go to bed I had the rare thought that I was nervous to shut my lights off.  I had to keep reminding myself that what I just watched was a movie and that I would be okay.

From a technical standpoint there were definitely some standout moments.  I’m not a hater when it comes to found footage films; however, I do feel like the genre is saturated with them, but I liked how THERAPY used different techniques to present the movie to us.  The majority of the film is either shot on what I would assume is a hand-held camera as well as a GoPro which I found to be really cool.  When not filmed in the style of found footage, the movie reverted back to the viewer being a detached spectator watching the detectives find clues and solve the mystery at hand.  I know a lot of people get a bit sick when watching found footage but I found it this film to be clearer and less shaky than a lot of films in that genre.  I also enjoyed the cinematography, especially when the aforementioned missing people went on their holiday – we viewed a picturesque valley in France with beautiful rays of sunlight and lush greens which gave the viewer a false sense of security and ended up being a stark contrast to the horrors that were to unfold.

As for the acting, everyone involved was assigned the stereotypical role that you see in most horror films, but that wasn’t something that bothered me.  I think if it was a seasoned director using the name archetypes I would have been annoyed but it’s important to remember that this was done by a 16 year old who’s just beginning his career.  Though the characters lacked originality I still found myself either rooting for them or hoping for their demise.  Ambrosioni’s was able to elicit an emotional response out of me that not every movie can accomplish, as I found myself yelling at the TV screen in hopes for the characters survival.  Doing this, even though I knew the outcome, made the viewing experience that much more enjoyable because I was interacting in a way that I haven’t in quite some time.

What really sold me on this movie though was not just the above average directing and the jump scares, but the ambiance of the entire film.  From the first unsettling image to the last frame of the film, there is an undertone of discomfort, fear, and horror that never seems to abate when watching the film.  Usually there is some form of comedic breaks to help ease the tension, but in the case of THERAPY there was none.  The fear and tension just keeps building until finally you feel like you are going to snap unless something happens.  Very few films have that nowadays and applaud Ambrosioni for allowing that feeling of dread to continue from beginning to end.

Overall, I absolutely loved THERAPY and the fact that it wasn’t the most original movie did nothing to deter me from enjoying every moment of it.  It had quality scares and terrifying images that have stayed with me since viewing the film a few weeks ago.  As for the gore level, I feel it was one of the only areas that Ambrosioni really restrained himself, whether that was due to his age or parental figures not wanting him to go overboard, that I am not sure.  Regardless, this is a film that should not be missed and it has resulted in putting director Nathan Ambrosioni on my radar.  I can’t wait to see what he has in store for horror fans next!

Shannon McGrew
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