Synopsis: A dark drama about fame and the price one pays to achieve it. Matt, is an actor whose sister goes missing years prior. His search for her leads to fanatical theatre group, whose leader employs horrifying methods in sharing the art of performance. What follows for Matt is a descent down the rabbit hole until he cannot determine what is real and what is fiction.
Higher Methods is Director Nathan Suher’s first feature film and is an independent filmmaker based in Massachusetts.
Higher Methods is a breakout psychological horror film that pulls no punches and rips and stabs at what reality is for an actor trying to make it in Hollywood. Matthew (Michael Christoforo) opens up this story and right away the commentary about the film industry from an actors perspective blasts out. This film carries a chip on it’s shoulder towards the treatment that actors get from Hollywood and major studios. This message is what prints interest on the screen with amazing efficiency. For an outsider of the acting world, like myself, it’s a peek into the hysteria and suspension of reality within an actor’s mind. And for actors and film industry insiders this film blasts open the doors and walls of how intense the acting game really is.
Higher Methods uses the method of stereotypes about the acting world to set the tone early on – using tropes like; sleeping with a powerful director or producer is the only way to get roles, drugs galore in seedy clubs where actors and actresses hang out before auditions. The tone Nathan sets up in the beginning feels like a snippet of acting life in Gotham city. Mathew walks into a nightclub teeming with Sin City vibes and meets Shannon (played by Jamie Lyn Bagley) who takes him into an acting class.
Other characters that come into this film are the pretentious acting teacher archetype and later on – the delusional director/producer/writer type who is somehow very successful. This film does a great job crafting a familiar yet subjective flow of scenery. The acting studio is a minimalist and dark room that looks seldom used and the pretentious teacher (played by Aaron Andrade) plays his role exceptionally and only adds to the scene and establishment of his character early on. The familiarity comes from Mathew’s journey into becoming a successful actor and his role being used as an example of all the barriers that exist between an actor’s dreams and truly getting to ‘the other side’ of the silver screen. So that’s sum’s up the first act – Matthew has a new crush named Shannon, he’s sufficiently hazed by a cartoonish and over the top acting teacher all while the back drop of his missing sister carries the plot forward.
Acts 2 and 3 are comprised of splatters of reality bending trips loosely cut into continuous plot. The editing is what takes center stage for the latter half of the film. Nathan and editor Eileen Slavin delicately and then brutally meld the viewer into the mind of Matthew the point when things start to get psychologically squirrely is when Matthew shoots up a glowing blue drug that is celebrated his new crush.
What follows is a wild up and down ride through what is real and not real. Matthew forgets his own name as the frames on screen jolt, jerk and flicker into surreal purgatory. Sometimes Matthew is a suspect in his sisters murder in other scenes he’s in a straightjacket. The story instantly gets fragmented into scenic enigmas that emulate what memories are like except these are distorted and horrific.
He’s interrogated by the acting teacher or is it just the pressure of becoming a good actor manifested into the image of his teacher and he’s doing all the torture to himself? Whether becoming a successful actor requires finding one’s inner “truth” or releasing the major “pain” in life. The message of this film sums up rather spuriously.
The last few moments of the conclusion are dialogue from that major studio director that asked Mathew to audition. He lays out a decree that is too hyperbolic and it separates from the characters on screen and instead takes one last swing at the toxicity of the acting industry. Actor’s are commodities to be bought and sold. I think the director character literally stood on top of a soapbox at one point.
In conclusion, the plot and subtext were intertwined well and the suspension of reality for the majority of the film did leave me a bit burnt out by the end, however it was a hell of a fun ride!
Overall this film was put together impressively well for being a debut feature and the acting from everyone was phenomenal! Nathan Suhur is a director to look out for future projects without a doubt.
Excellent storytelling | Technically and visually engaging editing style | Suffers from detaching from reality too early and lives there for too long | 8/10