One of the breakout gems of this year's Frightfest - and one which absolutely should have been playing on the Main screen - Youssef Delara and Victor Teran's Snap keenly asks the question - can someone be beyond help? Jim Whitman (Jake Hoffman) is a socially awkward musical genius, who spends most of his time in his apartment, cutting the very dubstep tracks which have made him a sensation online, while his exterior life harbours a pervasive, consuming schizoprehnia that threatens to destroy any sense of normality he seeks. When Jim boldly pursues his crush, kindly social worker Wendy (Nikki Reed), things begin to spiral well and truly out of control. Snap is a cold, hard slap in the face, an extremely stylish psychological thriller, featuring discordant editing for maximum visceral intensity, and a pulsing dubstep soundtrack that will by its nature prove divisive with audiences. Much of the mystery here pertains to Jim's childhood, and how a heinous event continues to resurface by way of the mysterious Jake (Thomas Dekker), a vivid presence inside Jim's head who continually bullies Jim and chips away at his self-esteem, leading to violent outbursts. Indeed, some truly wince-inducing moments abound, namely one involving a screwdriver and an ear canal, maintaining a persistent level of dread right through to its eerily ambiguous finale. Though not all of the plot strands quite coalesce - Scott Bakula's social worker character never fully comes into the fold - this is a smart, stylish psychological thriller boosted by stellar performances and a unique engagement with its schizophrenic protagonist.
The latest attempt to bring a Nordic noir novel to the screen - this time from author Lars Kepler - was Sweden's entry into this year's Oscar race, which failed to make the shortlist despite the best efforts of veteran filmmaker Lasse Hallström, who continues to demonstrate his extraordinary versatility as a filmmaker, even if the material can't quite keep up with him. The Hypnotist begins with a triple murder, all occurring within the same family, while one son remains in critical condition in hospital. With the killer yet to be brought justice, there's the justifiable fear that the family's surviving daughter will be next for the chop, and so Detective Inspector Joona Linna turns to controversial hypnotist Erik Maria Bark to help him uncover the comatose son's memories of the attack. If it seems by the title that this will be anything but a generic crime procedural, then it did a good job fooling you, because hypnotism encompasses so little of what this movie is about, especially in the first half. There are some nice ideas - namely the fallacy of a hypnotist accidentally implanting memories - but Hallström fails to go anywhere truly interesting with them, instead opting for a thoroughly formulaic if nicely shot thriller. If the ridiculousness of the hypnotism premise - namely the ease with which Erik is able to put someone under - is a little much to take, it's in firm contrast to the drab drama of Erik's private life, namely his uneasy marriage to Simone (Lena Olin), which pads the film out to bloated 117 minutes. It boasts a decent enough mid-film twist, though also becomes a disappointingly familiar serial killer flick in its final act, dawdling along to a typically snow-topped Scandinavian finale. An inoffensive enough Nordic thriller that nevertheless completely blows its interesting premise.
Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.