For a car crash closer to home, there’s Suri Krishnamma’s LOCKED IN (September 17 at 9:30 pm, with Krishnamma and actresses Eliza Dushku and Sarah Roemer). A couple and their daughter are driving through the Callahan Tunnel, a Christmas tree on the roof of the car, singing along with the radio, Then, as in the opening of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Blue, disaster strikes. The little girl ends up in the hospital suffering from “locked-in” syndrome, like the guy in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
As jolting flashbacks make clear, it’s not such a happy family after all. The father had cheated on his wife, and the marriage is on the skids. Now, when all seems lost, dad wants everything back again, so much that he starts hearing messages from his daughter on the TV and . . .
Most of you will guess in about half an hour where this is going. Nonetheless, in his first film, Krishnamma shows skill at building suspense and at evoking existential horror with effects no more complicated than an empty room.
NORMAN MAILER: THE AMERICAN: It’s just about impossible to make a dull movie about this cultural icon.
The collision in Jeffrey Fine’s CHERRY (September 20 at 7 pm, with Fine and actor Kyle Gallner) is one of moral sensibilities. It starts out as a tepid kid-coming-of-age-and-leaving-the-nest-to-go-to-college comedy, with 17-year-old Aaron (Gallner) saying goodbye to his controlling mom and his spineless dad and hello to a tough engineering curriculum, an obnoxious roommate, and social awkwardness as he enters an “Ivy League school.”
Midway through, though, the film takes a kinky turn: in a rare art class, Aaron meets Linda (Laura Allen), a 34-year-old woman trying to get a late degree. Cougars, maybe, we can live with, but not pedophilia: when Aaron goes home with Linda for dinner, he’s pounced on by her pre-legal daughter, Beth (Brittany Robertson) — picking up perhaps on the unwholesome Lolita vibes from Arcadia Lost. To his credit, Fine resolves this ménage with taste and integrity, and also with humor and genuine feeling. That’s due largely to the nuanced performance of Gallner, who reminds me of a young Jeremy Renner.
The car crash in Paul Epstein’s THE LAST HARBOR (screens September 20 at 9:15 pm, with Epstein and actors Wade Williams and Stephanie Lemelin) is his protagonist’s entire life. Ian (Williams), a Boston homicide detective, likes a drink now and then; he also enjoys interrogating suspects. When he combines the two, an innocent man winds up in the hospital. So he’s eased out of the department and made chief of the Last Harbor PD, a two-cop town that’s actually Massachusetts’s own Rockport. There he hopes to dry out and put his life back on track.
But the sleepy burg has its secrets, such as the disappearance of a call girl from the local hotel. It’s like a tame version of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me: Ian gets entangled in a lot of inbred intrigue and viciousness, and he seeks truth and justice and his own integrity, but you suspect all he really wants is a stiff one.