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  Strings, The Alone Again, Naturally
Year: 2020
Director: Ryan Glover
Stars: Teagan Johnston, Jenna Schaefer, April Aliermo, Lora Bidner, Toby Hendy
Genre: Horror, Drama, MusicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: There is a tale told in these parts of a man, a bloody toolbox, and a suicide by walking into the sea on a Winter's day, but as Catherine (Teagan Johnston) makes up her mind to head out there after dissolving her band and wishing to make solo material, that story is not uppermost in her mind. She simply needs to get away from it all, and staying in her aunt's seaside cottage up in a quiet region of coastal Canada seems like the best way to achieve that, and she is even reluctant to receive any e-mails or texts, never mind take any video calls. However, her isolation there may not be conducive to her creative spirit, and as she prefers to lounge around the cottage getting very little done, could it be that she is going ever so slightly crazy?

Well, we've all seen The Shining, and he had his family with him. The Strings was a collaboration between director and co-writer Ryan Glover and writer Krista Dzialoszynski and the musician Teagan Johnston, formerly known as Little Coyote (and nothing to do with fellow Canadians Tegan and Sarah, if you were wondering). It was certainly a showcase for Johnston as she was in practically every shot, and got to perform some of her songs as well, making this as much a music film as it was a drama, yet there lay a problem, for this was promoted as a horror movie and what chills there were turned out to be doled out piecemeal in the latter half. Indeed, if it wasn't for the ending, you could be forgiven for not realising it was intended to be a horror at all.

Therefore what you had skirted closer to character study, except that Catherine did not have an abundance of personality from what we could see, since she barely interacted with anybody - there were really only three characters in the whole movie, and one of those only showed up a couple of times on a Zoom call. Asking the audience to fathom what was going on in the protagonist's head was a tough call when most of what we saw of her was lying around, tinkering with electrical equipment, attending to stuff around the house, sleeping and so on, and sad to say it was not exactly riveting. Maybe they intended it as a study of loneliness as Catherine had cut herself off from the rest of the world, only there was a presence that may or may not be in her head that was keen to make it apparent she was not as alone as she thought she was.

Who was that bloke on the beach, standing outside the cottage, looming in her bedroom? Was he the ghost of the man we saw walking into the sea at the very beginning? Could be, but what was his interest in Catherine? That was more difficult to work out as there were very few clues offered, and the subplot where our heroine meets up with a photographer, Grace (Jenna Schaefer), for publicity shots may have had an unexpected resolution, but that did not necessarily mean it was best for the narrative. There was a little gay interest as Catherine and Grace made tentative moves towards romance, but even with all this empty space in the film there was not enough to do the relationship justice. If you were a fan of Johnston's music from before, you may be interested in her nude scene, but even there you would be more alarmed that she was starkers outside in a Canadian Winter with snow on the ground (bare feet on snow - urgh). There was stuff here that you would not see elsewhere so much, though whether you needed to in the first place was debatable. Nicely photographed landscapes, mind you. Music by Adrian Ellis.

[Premieres Tuesday, November 23 2021 on Shudder.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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