Monday, December 4, 2006

All is Normal (2006)

Review by Fatally Yours

Haunting and heartbreaking, this film commands attention with its strong silence. After watching this film, I had to ask myself how something so still and quiet can have such a big impact…but that is the effect that All is Normal has on the viewer...

Janet (Juliana Brafa) is in an abusive relationship with her controlling asshole of a boyfriend Bruce (Duane Wallace). Physically and emotionally bruised, she seeks help from an abuse counselor (Linda Blair). The counselor empowers Janet to leave the horrifying relationship and finds her a job in the middle of nowhere taking care of a house for sale. Janet leaves Bruce quietly one morning, with nothing but a big red suitcase and a big black eye.

Janet arrives at a large, isolated house far away from anyone and anything. The realtor, Paul (Greg Burgess), in charge of selling the house checks on Janet irregularly, making sure she keeps the place spic ‘n’ span. Janet spends her days cleaning the house, reading books and becoming friendly with Woody (Kyle Brosius), the cute guy who mows her lawn. Paul makes her keep a log of her daily chores and any odd occurrences, but most of the time “all is normal.” That is, except for the violent and powerful flashbacks Janet keeps having and the feeling that Bruce is going to track her down. Isolated from the world and alone with her memories, Janet is soon plagued with fear, paranoia and panic. With Bruce still out there, will she ever feel safe again?

A close study on the long lasting emotional scars of an abusive relationship, All is Normal has the ability to make the viewer feel the pain and isolation that abuse victims often experience. It serves as a reminder, a wake-up call that makes the viewer realize that there are thousands upon thousands of women like Janet who are abused by those that claim to love them. Like the doctors in the film who treated Janet after Bruce knocked her out, the signs of abuse are often overlooked or blatantly ignored by authority. The film uses its subtlety to snub its nose at such ignorance.

Juliana Brafa, who co-wrote and co-directed with Todd G. Bieber, plays Janet with a combination of strength and vulnerability that’s completely believable. Duane Wallace is terrifying as Bruce, every woman’s worst nightmare. He is sweet one minute, menacing and violent the next. Linda Blair gives a solid performance as the counselor and it was nice to see her in something a little different than the norm. The rest of the cast all give solid performances that could rival (and perhaps surpass) any big budget picture. As for the way the film looks, it is just gorgeous. There were many times that I even forgot I was watching a low budget flick. The use of color (most notably the color red) throughout the film was a clever motif that reminded me of Kubrick’s repeating color patterns in The Shining. The hue and intensity of the colors throughout the film were very vivid and beautiful. The scene featured on the poster, with Janet in bright red lying on the lush green grass, was one of the best shots based on pure aesthetics. Brafa and Bieber definitely knew what they were doing, in both the direction and the writing. I can’t wait to see what both of them do next.

All is Normal is a slow movie, one that doesn’t feature gore and nudity (Is that all you kids are into these days? C’mon!! Why do I feel I have to put a disclaimer on anything that doesn’t feature those two things?!), but it is terrifying nonetheless. It is a very socially conscious film that deals with the psychological terror of getting out an abusive relationship. I think all female horror fans should definitely watch this film. Like when you realize that the silence around you has moved from peaceful to unsettling, All is Normal is horrifying in its quietness.

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