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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 08.11.11] movie review news thriller drama western

Year: 2009
Director: Danny Daneau
Writer: Danny Daneau, Eric Ernst
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Opening scenes are a little like first impressions: the good and bad stand out while the mediocre blend together into the background. It's been some time since a film's opening stood out. So long in fact that I can't recall a particularly memorable one in the last few years and then I sit down with a small independent film titled The Attic Door and I see an opening which, in its opening 5 minutes, mesmerized. The combination of framing, music and the confusion of the scene, seen out of context from the rest of the film, are so outstanding that it will be a long while before it dislodges itself from my mind. The same is true for the film.

Danny Daneau's film, which he co-wrote with Eric Ernst, is set on a small farm in the American West in what appears to be the 19th century. Caroline and her younger brother Darrell are on their own, following the instructions left by their parents who they expect will arrive any day now. We see the children, I'd guess not over the age of 12, taking care of themselves and being self sufficient. We see them play, collect water and survive in the overpowering heat of the desert. When night comes, so does the terror. The attic door is boarded up, suggesting a monster on the other side, but we never see it. As quickly as it's introduced it retreats to the background but never quite disappears; night always comes and the horror behind the door only grows.

But The Attic Door isn't a monster story or more accurately, it's not just a story about scary things in the attic. Daneau and Ernst's tale is a multi-layered one of childhood optimism, playfulness, self sufficiency, survival and the deep rooted bond of family.

The potential for things going wrong when working with kids is great, particularly in a movie like The Attic Door which relies solely on the performance of the two children. There are no distractions here: no additional characters to deflect bad performances, little music or action to hide what doesn't work and they're unnecessary because both Madison Davenport and Jake Johnson do what many actors can't: they fill the empty, quiet moments of the story with emotion and depth. Their performances are wonderful and both give off an air of being wise beyond their years.

I loved everything about The Attic Door, the low key score from Kristin Øhrn Dyrud, Scott Uhlfelder's gorgeous cinematography which captures the desert in both its beauty and menace, the performances and the delicacy of the story which reveals itself in small measured steps, building anticipation and dread with each passing scene.

Danny Daneau's debut feature is the work of an assured filmmaker with vision and control. A story with this many layers could easily be derailed by one of the secondary story lines but Daneau delivers a film with purpose, one which stays firmly committed to the story.

Now available to pre-order, The Attic Door is a must see. The release features a collection of behind the scenes production videos (more available on the website) and a number of deleted scenes.

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Karen Akers (11 years ago) Reply

I agree! Well done.

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