I don’t know if you’re aware of the directing team of JUSTIN BENSON and AARON MOORHEAD? Over the last decade they’ve made a number of original and thought-provoking genre films together, and have recently found more mainstream success directing episodes of the MOON KNIGHT TV series for MARVEL. I really enjoyed their films SPRING (a young man relocates from the US to Italy, where he falls in love with a local woman who has a dark secret), and THE ENDLESS (two brothers return to the scene of a UFO death cult they escaped as kids), but it’s their 2019 movie SYNCHRONIC that I want to recommend to you today.
Two New Orleans paramedics’ lives are ripped apart after they encounter a series of horrific deaths linked to a designer drug with bizarre, otherworldly effects.Read more: Synchronic
The BENSON and MOORHEAD films that I’ve seen appeal to me because they do what I love most in horror and science-fiction tales – they drop ordinary folk into utterly extraordinary situations. And what makes these stories accessible and successful is the grounded, low-fi way in which they’re presented. There’s a refreshing lack of pomp and grandiosity. Even the most world-shattering events are presented almost with a shrug. To me, they feel like the diametric opposites of typical Hollywood blockbusters.
SYNCHRONIC is, to my mind, the most successful of the bunch (excepting their 2012 debut RESOLUTION which I’ve not yet managed to see). Featuring ANTHONY MACKIE and JAMIE DORNAN, this is a smart movie with an interesting premise that provides enough of an explanation to satisfy you but doesn’t feel the need to overload the viewer with exposition. As I watched, I couldn’t help comparing it to other films where characters get to hop around the timeline. The relative simplicity of SYNCHRONIC gives it far more of an appeal to me than, say, CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S TENET. There’s no desire to beat the audience into submission with the manipulation of the 4th dimension here. No, instead we’re following a character who, to his disbelief as much as ours, has stumbled upon a way to jump through time, as well as a reason to do it.
And again, like the best genre stories, the time-travel McGuffin is secondary to the rest of the plot. The human stories drive the genre elements, not the other way around. To the characters we’re watching, there’s nothing more important than the gravity of their own situations, and the implications of a designer drug that can wreak havoc on the space/time continuum come a distant second to the importance of putting a broken family and a ruptured friendship back together.
I really enjoyed SYNCHRONIC, and I recommend you give it a spin. Have a look at MOORHEAD and BENSON’s other movies while you’re at it – they’re on NETFLIX here in the UK. I’m off now to track down a copy of RESOLUTION…