Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Beyond": Director of "13th Floor" covers a lot of ground in kidnapping story, should have focused even more on the likable psychic


The “indie B movie” named “Beyond”, directed by Josef Rusnak (Anchor Bay, 90 min, 2012) certainly offers spectacular Alaskan scenery.  If you rent or buy it, watch it on a wide high-definition Plasma screen (even the conventional DVD looks pretty good, particular in the private plane flight scenes  -- the camera uses the entire 2.35:1 spread). It’s too bad that the film didn’t have much of a theatrical presence.  And the reason may well be, that to please investors, the screenwriter Gregory Gieras went too far to create “bottom line” rooting interest and spurious plot complications.

The main premise is that a radio psychic works with family and reluctant police detective to locate a kidnapped little girl.  (I vaguely remember some kind of case like this from Alaska on ABC 20-20 about ten years ago.)  The film opens with a rather enigmatic prologue of the detective  Jon Koski (an aging Jon Voigt) rescuing a boy in the wilderness from an apparent psychopath.  Soon the film is on its main plot thread, setting up the kidnapping of Amy Noble (Chloe Lesslie) in typical thriller fashion, at the expansive and wide-open family home, somewhere near Anchorage.  Koski questions the husband Jim (Ben Crowley), now an oil company executive.  Was the point of the crime to threaten the pipeline?  No, Jon questions Jim’s background as a defrocked prosecutor, who could have made enemies by someone he put away.  (This gets to sound like it could go the course of Lifetime’s  2006 film, “Family in Hiding”.) A former babysitter Megan (Skyler Shaye) suggests hiring her friend, the psychic Farley Connors (young British actor Julian Morris).  Sarah Noble (Teri Polo) goes along.

The middle part of the film really takes us into Farley’s world, with his tabloid talk show and Ouija boards.  Farley seems to be a likeable, almost charismatic character who may have “powers”.  That doesn’t make him immune to gunfire at the end, though.  It seems as though the movie could have been made to be driven entirely by him, and his story – but then it’s harder to write a conventional thriller plot.  Maybe the Connors character would generate a cable television series on SiFy or maybe Fx.

The movie also offers a subplot at the end about Koski’s own integrity as a cop, as well as other complications in the family.  It seemed almost unnecessary, though.
   
The official site is here


Rusnak is known for the quirky sci-fi thriller “The Thirteenth Floor” (1999, Columbia), which shows a parallel “Truman-like” world limited with a border in the Mojave Desert.

The film should not be confused with a Swedish drama by Pernila August.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Anchorage.  I visited it in 1980. I remember getting in (in early August) from Hawaii and seeing the fir trees from the motel window in the very early dawn.  

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