Fantastic Fest Review: BETWEEN WORLDS (2018)

BETWEEN WORLDS is the latest film from writer/director Maria Pulera (Falsely Accused) and features the most unlikely love triangle between a man, his new girlfriend, and the spirit of his dead wife. The film stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), Penelope Mitchell (Hemlock Grove), Garrett Clayton (Hairspray), and Lydia Hearst (#Horror). BETWEEN WORLDS had its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Joe (Nicolas Cage) is a down-on-his-luck truck driver grieving the loss of his wife and child. On the way to his next stop, he meets Julie (Franka Potente) after he finds her being choked in a gas station restroom. Thinking that he has saved her life, she informs him that the reason she was being choked was so that she could send her spirit to help her daughter who is in critical condition after a motorcycle accident. Intrigued, Joe decides to go with Julie to the hospital, and as they comfort each other, Julie’s daughter slips into a coma, thus becoming possessed by Joe’s dead wife. What ends up unfolding is a tale of jealousy, lust, rage, murder and everything in-between as the boundaries of love are tested with quite a few deadly consequences.

Having just recently seen Cage in the bat-shit crazy horror film Mandy, I wasn’t sure what to expect, or what version of Cage we would be getting, in BETWEEN WORLDS. Though this film isn’t as insane as Mandy, it still most certainly is on the bizarre side of the tracks. When we meet Joe, he is clearly not a good place in his life, with barely any money to sustain him through the next couple of days. He’s greasy looking, slightly unhinged, with a darkness behind his eyes, yet Julie finds herself attracted to him, and invites him to stay with her to help her out with her daughter. Even when her daughter Billie (played by Penelope Mitchell) begins to act out of character, making sexually suggestive remarks to Joe, both Julie and Joe seem surprisingly unfazed by the behavior. As it begins to come to light that Billie is possessed by Joe’s deceased wife Mary (Lydia Hearts), the dynamics between our three main leads begins to break down. By the time we have hit the third act, all hell has broken loose culminating in a very surreal ending that I wished was a bit more polished.

There were a lot of aspects of the film I enjoyed, mainly in terms of the acting, and for the most part I dug the storyline, but I did have some issues with the decision-making process of Joe. I’m not sure if this is because we are led to believe he’s just a complete fuck up that doesn’t care if he flirts with his new girlfriend’s daughter (prior to learning that she had become possessed). Something about that angle really bothered me and I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, though it might be because we are also presented with a side of Joe that calls for sympathy. Those two opposing personalities didn’t sit well with me and, in a way, made what could have been a phenomenal film into one that was lackluster. As I said before, the performances were excellent, and I love seeing Cage take on these genre roles, as opposed to mainstream money makers, as they are a constant reminder of the talent and range that he possesses, especially when he’s in a role that’s outside of the box. I also loved seeing Franka Potente, though I felt like her character was underutilized and only meant to be an escape for Cage’s character, which is a shame because she’s talented as all hell.

All in all, there were moments in which I enjoyed BETWEEN WORLDS, especially towards the end of the film when shit really hits the fan and we learn of Joe’s wife’s motives for coming back. The movie as a whole rides that fine line between being grounded in reality and absolute chaos which I found to be fascinating and entertaining for the most part. I think more work needed to be done with the story in order for it to not feel so choppy at times, with an added focus on more of what Julie’s special abilities were all about (which we never really get into). Most of us enjoy seeing Cage go full rage, and though he doesn’t peak in BETWEEN WORLDS he gets rather close. Fans of supernatural films and those who enjoy watching an off-kilter Nicolas Cage will find a lot to be entertained with in BETWEEN WORLDS.

Shannon McGrew
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