As a no-budget, two-iPhone guerrilla effort from director pair Powell Robinson and Patrick Robert Young on only their sophomore feature, Threshold is very good. Add the fact that it was a bare-boned screenplay (Young) featuring no planned ending until the story organically reached it by way of improvisation, it’s a truly impressive team effort — particularly so for having been filmed over the course of a 12-day road trip with a crew of just three.
With a predictably slim runtime,Threshold wastes no time in its opener: Leo (Joey Millin) receives a phone call from his mother, telling him that his sister, Virginia (Madison West), has been found. The soon-to-be divorcee sets off with his old car from his college days, bonnet covered in beer coasters, to find Virginia, violently sick, in a grotty apartment. His natural assumption is that she’s on drugs, yet Virginia insists she’s not in withdrawal; she says she’s bound to a man after they both encountered a cult, that they each feel what the other feels. A dubious Leo agrees to search for this man to break the bond, and the two hit the road.
Honestly? I’m cursed.
Threshold is very much a road trip movie, and a slow burner, to boot. More concerned with exploring the siblings’ relationship than relying on horror tropes, its motivations are steered by the everyday over the supernatural and the film spends the vast majority of its time doing just that; the relationship develops beautifully from an initial awkwardness that reflects their judgements of each other’s actions during their time apart — her drug-taking; his poor choice of relationship — to a warm and believable bond. For this, the decision for improvisation pays dividends; the viewer as passenger observes a drip-feeding, entirely naturalistic conversation that belies the mysterious raison d’être of the trip. Complementing this is their literal journey: a variety of climates and landscapes/surrounds are taken in, underlining the characters’ progressions both individually and as a pair.
Impatient viewers may wonder if any horror is to come at all. Initial slivers of imagery generally don’t accompany the ride, and Threshold takes its sweet time in eventually throwing a red herring or two, teasing certain trope expectations and a change in pace, but yielding little. These are, however, a refreshing and brave move, lulling a false sense of security (and humour) within and without the screen. While the siblings re-establish their bond within their own bubble, one that has no link to the outside world bar Leo’s phone and Virginia’s less tangible connection to it, they near forget the reason for their journey at all. Threshold indulges this, almost following in kind to also pull and distract the viewer away; rather than deliberately create the tension we would usually expect and savour from a slow burner of this ilk — again, that bare-boned improvisation — we are just as shocked as the two once they arrive at their destination. As such, the climax is spine-chilling, yielding an unexpected, shocking final moment. Leo and Virginia have completed their journey, reaching what may be both the next level and natural end of their relationship.
Arrow Video present Threshold on digital download 3 May
Patrick Robert Young
Patrick Robert Young
3 May 2021