The best thing I can say about Elsewhere is that it is a competent thriller. The worst thing I can say is that you’ll see every turn that its plot takes far in advance. I suppose saying that it still manages to, for the most part, work, despite the formulaic and predictable plot means it’s somewhat of an anomaly. I mean, when you are ahead of a movie that needs to keep you guessing, how does the film still be successful?
That’s a bit more difficult to answer than you might think. In short, it’s that everything else about the film is interesting in one aspect or another. The filmmakers made a sleek, well-paced movie, the actors turned in solid if unspectacular work, and enough creepiness was thrown in to keep your eyes looking. Sure, it’s not exactly “thrilling,” but it’s definitely watchable from start to finish. That’s more than you can say for a lot of low-budget, indie thrillers, so I’m going to go ahead and claim this as a victory for the moviegoing public.
Elsewhere‘s plot involves a young woman, Jillian (Tania Raymonde), disappearing after telling her best friend, Sarah (Anna Kendrick), that she wanted to run away. Jillian is the typical promiscuous girl. She’s the one who posts pictures of herself online to attract attention, goes on dates with some of these people, and has very few people to rely on. Of course, the reason for this is that her mother is neglectful and her father isn’t around. This will surprise none of you. However, this is the type of person who doesn’t get on CNN if she disappears. That’s kind of an interesting idea.
I mean, surely many of you — especially if you live in America — remember the case of Caylee Anthony. It dominated headlines on some news channels for months. It’s because the missing child was an innocent, someone who didn’t have a reputation. Someone like Jillian goes missing and nothing is going to be done. The film itself doesn’t really do a whole lot with this premise, but it gives you just enough of it to make you think, and make you appreciate that this kind of thing could happen.
Anyway, it’s up to Sarah and computer geek Jasper (Chuck Carter) to try to find up where Jillian is, and hopefully bring her home safe and sound. It turns out to be more of a detective movie than you’d initially think, although most of that work is done at a computer screen, as Sarah and Jasper hack into Jillian’s website and try to determine who her captor is. Mixed in are a bunch of creepy sequences in which someone does something to scare our two mini-Sherlocks.
Is Elsewhere a terribly scary movie? No, not really. It has a few moments that will make you jump, a couple of images that might make you wonder if you DVD player is messing up on you, and a jump scare or two thrown in for good measure. However, it’s not really working on that level. It wants to build atmosphere, and it wants to make you continually question just who is behind — what we eventually learn to be — a string of kidnappings. The problem with that is that it’s so obvious. By the halfway point, you’ll probably have come up with a dozen scenarios that would be more interesting than the obvious one that the film chooses.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that this is the route that the filmmakers had to take. They didn’t have a lot of time or money, so keeping the plot easy likely was done in an effort to conserve resources. There’s a scene at the end that really makes it feel like the money ran out; the villain is explaining what happened to everyone, and all we get are a couple of small flashbacks, meaning entire scenes didn’t have to be filmed.
That can be effective, don’t get me wrong, as it keeps some mystery to the events that transpired both before and during the film, but I don’t think the subtlety was there as a result of trying to do this. When the bad guy flat out says “I’m going to tell you everything now,” that ship has kind of sailed, hasn’t it? I was hoping that this point would reveal something new, something different, but all it did was frustrate, especially because we get so little of an explanation.
Still, the director moves the film at a quick pace, and save for one “interrogation” scene that felt completely out of place, it maintains a consistent tone and is always watchable. Tania Raymonde is good as the “slutty” girl — the characters’ words, not mine — Anna Kendrick and Chuck Carter make for effective detectives, and the supporting cast is all fine, too. Some interesting cinematographic choices and filters make a couple of the scenes more interesting than they have any right to be, and I found myself enjoying it more than I likely should have.
Elsewhere is a fine mystery-thriller, at least, once you get past the formulaic and uninteresting plot. It’s well-shot, admirably performed, contains effective pacing and maintains a strong tone throughout. Now, if it could have only kept that enthusiasm when crafting our story. It’s too predictable to be entrancing, which makes it suffer. Still, I’ll take this film over so many wide released thrillers, as this one at least remains watchable throughout its running time.