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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

The Block Island Sound

2020 | United States | 99 min | More...
A still from The Block Island Sound (2020)
  • Watched on D+: 2 stars (out of 5)
    on Sun Feb 6, 2022 via Netflix

    Chris Sheffield plays Harry, an aimless young man living in the isolated community of Block Island. He lives with his aging father Tom, his sisters long since having departed for life on the mainland. He returns home one night to find Tom standing outside in a stupor, staring at the neighbor’s dog. Tom shrugs it off, but Harry senses something’s wrong. The next morning, Tom is missing. When he turns up, Tom struggles to account for the time he’s been gone. Harry’s investigation into his father’s strange behavior leads him down a similar path of blackouts and missing time. Spoilers follow.

    I wanted to like this more. Early on, directors Kevin and Matthew McManus use the island location, desolate sea, and dark photography to generate a Lovecraftian sense of isolation and insignificance. The cast proves strong. I loved Jim Cummings as Harry’s conspiracy-minded friend, but Neville Archambault’s turn as Harry stands out. The scene where he growls “Girl!” chills. His delivery—imbued with a subtle dissonance—evokes the stuff of nightmares.

    But I never felt invested in Harry. He’s myopic and immature. His insistence on withholding information harkens to the slasher victim running up the stairs instead of out of the house. As the narrative stakes ramp up, the emotional stakes lag. I don’t fault Sheffield, who convinces in the part. His character just can’t carry the story.

    The film also lost me when it reveals the danger lurks not below the sea but in the skies above it. What began as a Dagonesque Lovecraftian horror, turns into an alien abduction/possession thriller. In establishing rules for how the aliens work (the tractor beam, using electronic devices to communicate) the film explains too much. The coda analogy framing them as alien biologists proves clever, but once again, over-explains.

    Still, I appreciate what the McManus brothers attempted and how far they stretched their meager budget. They aimed for cosmic horror but settled for alien abduction. Keep swinging, gentlemen.