Get ready for a mental breakdown with haunted wine and an old bathtub in this ghostly thriller, BRIGHT HILL ROAD, starring Siobhan Williams, Agam Darshi, and Michael Eklund.
BRIGHT HILL ROAD, a small Canadian film ironically released by Uncork’d Entertainment, is about alcoholic Marcy, an HR manager and creepy collage artist. While being boozed up at work, she survives a mass shooting committed by a previous employee, but watches a coworker die in the chaos. Needing to re-examine her life, she takes a trip to collect herself, happening upon an old hotel on Bright Hill Road. However, like the classic song, Hotel California, she just can’t seem to leave.
During her stay, she begins to hear and experience strange things in the dilapidated building. Are they just figments of her imagination as she goes through withdrawal or are they the ghostly screams of a sordid past?
My thoughts: So, I know you’ve been around the block, just like I have. You like horror, you’re no randy. You’ve seen this “twist” before, so let’s give each other a quick wink about the “twist” of the hotel and what it really is.
However, with that understanding even pretty apparent from the beginning of BRIGHT HILL ROAD, Siobhan Williams’s performance is phenomenal. She sells it – lock, stock, and barrel. Her portrayal of Marcy is smart, no-B.S., but also disgustingly flawed (like in the start of the movie, Marcy is so drunk, she doesn’t even realize the shooting as it’s unfolding around her).
The whole premise of the movie could have gone stale and been disappointing, but her performance keeps the audience invested and quietly rooting for her to uncover what we already know. Williams absolutely excelled with this part and made it so much more relatable and honest.
I also want to give props to Michael Eklund for his terrifically gross performance. He brought Owen to life in what could have easily been a campy or underwhelming performance. He creates not only a skin-crawling creep, but also someone struggling with their own vulnerability and insecurity as Marcy struggles with hers. I would have loved to see more of Owen’s thoughts, but I enjoyed the history of him and the interaction between the characters. And bless the costume designer that put him into the floral Hawaiian shirt!
However, speaking of blessings, let’s get into some of my thoughts on that. The message (beyond haunted booze and breakdowns in bathtubs) is a bit heavy-handed, but also strangely confusing. In the same way that “drugs are bad” in Requiem for a Dream, “sex is bad” in most slasher flicks of the ’80s, and “abortion is bad” in the dreadful Life Zone, this lesson is obviously “drinking is bad”.
Now, I understand that the drinking was caused by a trauma in Marcy’s life; however, it begins to feel tired and muddied when it falls into tropes (drunkenly dancing alone and, as previously mentioned, multiple breakdowns in bathtubs). Williams does sell it, don’t get me wrong, but it comes off a bit flat. And when it injects religious symbology and iconography, it becomes cringey. I understand who was speaking through her hallucinations, but the “godless little bitch” bit was too on-the-nose and just too heavy-handed for my tastes.
However, I want to point out credit where credit is due. This is a small movie with limited actors, locations, and budget (yeah, I saw those Dollar Store candles, I’ve got a ton of my own, dudes), but what they accomplished with this film was genuinely awesome. The effects and jump-scares were perfectly executed and progressed the story instead of detracting from it. The makeup (Marcy really did look like shit in many scenes) and practical gore was stunning (credit to Kyra Macpherson and Victoria McNair). The score was beautiful and, during some scenes, hypnotic. Visually, there are multiple amazing shots (good use of spooky hallways) and interesting ideas on the screen (bloody bottles and picture-time bathtub), and apart from the withdrawal-hazy-cam, it’s gorgeously shot.
Apart from some small flaws, BRIGHT HILL ROAD is definitely a film to check in with…too bad you just can’t ever leave. BRIGHT HILL ROAD will arrive On-Demand and DVD on January 12, 2021.