With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise in America, more and more Americans find themselves outside to escape boredom and confinement. Getting a breath of fresh air provides a moment of relief in this time of stress and uncertainty. But in the case of The Tent, the freedom and fresh air are nothing but a hunting ground for the few who remain unconsumed by menacing beings.
After an apocalyptic event referred to only as ‘The Crisis’, we see David (Tim Kaiser) making an isolated living in the wilderness. As David finds himself in trouble while completing daily chores, another survivor, Mary (Lulu Dahl), comes to his aid. Mary, while having good intentions, has disrupted the fragile balance of power, and now far more is at risk than they know. This is the official synopsis but I want you to forget it. Forget it all. Now. The film is billed as a thriller, creature horror type flick. And I want to let you know ahead of time if that is what you want then continue searching. But if you’re open to something compelling and different, then read on.
The intro sequence lets you know immediately what is happening…and that is that you don’t know what’s happening. It was absolutely attention-grabbing albeit disjointed. However, I think the fragmentation may have been intentional. More on that later.
The story for The Tent is refreshingly original. A big round of applause to writer/director Kyle Couch for creating something different and stimulating. The set up may seem standard but trust me when I say all is not as it seems. Unfortunately, this incredible story gets muddled with confusing plot points and some awkward dialogue.
The Tent features constant flashbacks and that choice serves the film well. The constant jumping back and forth gives the film a manic feel while giving us details about David’s past. But much like some of the plot points and dialogue, some of the flashbacks make things more unclear and leave the audience confused. There is a lot of detail attempting to be covered in a short amount of time, and flashbacks introduced a lot of topics without really explaining them. As a specific example, there are several flashbacks to a homemade survival tape by David. It parallels what is happening in the film and acts as a sort of chapter marker, but its real purpose isn’t revealed until the very end of the film.
Even though things seem spasmodic, there is a certain synergy occurring. As the film heads towards its climax, the cinematography and music work together to mirror the intensifying situation between Mary and David. Camera cuts become more choppy and camera angles and pans all seem to speed up. The sounds of the monsters grow louder as the situation darkens and we are introduced to whispers. Best of all, the visual-auditory harmony in The Tent beautifully represents David’s descent into a more manic and frantic state.
The main issue here is throughout the entire film, there is a question as to what exactly is happening. I mentioned earlier that it might be on purpose and there is a reason for my speculation. The last 10 minutes of the film answered every single question I had about what was going on. Every. Single. Question. And once I realized what was going on, I was truly moved. Tim Kaiser delivers an incredibly emotional performance during this moment of clarity and the viewer connects and empathizes with his character on a personal level. At the very end of the film we see this same type of performance from Lulu Dahl and in my honest opinion, those 10 minutes of “Ah-Ha so THIS is what is happening!” make the 70 minutes of “What the hell is going on??” absolutely worth it.
The original note I wrote for this film was “A Quiet Place vibe”. Two people stuck out in the woods and there are monsters lurking that are bound by rules (ex. They feed on stress and cannot see you if you do not move). My original note may have been a correct analogy to start, but as the film progresses the “vibe” changed and we discover that it is in no way shape or form similar to A Quiet Place. After watching the film all the way through my new note reads “The Babadook vibe”.
I think it is incorrect to classify this film as a horror-thriller movie, you never see the creatures of malice and there is no bloody brawl in the forest. The Tent feels more like an emotional drama. That being said, I will say the horror featured in this film is all things relevant, relatable, and painfully real. The beginning is rough, but the ending is worth it. So if you are patient and willing to sit through some confusion you will be glad you did. It is a tale of life, loved ones, and survival, and that feels relevant more than ever right now. To quote David in the film, “Remember, surviving isn’t just about you alone”. So grab your loved ones and watch this film as we survive this pandemic together. Pro-tip…have some tissues handy.
Movie Rating: 7 out of 10
|Runtime:||1hr. 20 Mins.|