Update (11/27/16): Addison Wylie’s original review of The Sublet was posted on 12/09/15 for the film’s SuperChannel premiere. However, due to the film’s Toronto premiere at this year’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival, the screening information located at the bottom of this article has been updated.
John Ainslie’s The Sublet is pretty creepy, but it’s also a testament to how gifted of an actress Tianna Nori really is.
Nori has starred in some great horror movies (Clean Break, The Demolisher) and rarely finds herself in a film that’s so-so (Save Yourself). Despite the quality of the actual movie though, you always remember what she brings to the table. I’m gushing, I know, but she brings a remarkable amount of talent to a genre that frequently runs dry of artistry.
In her filmography, The Sublet ranks directly in the middle of the quality scale – it’s a solid feature debut that ends up buckling from juggling too much. However, again, Nori manages to work with off-kilter material and present the audience with a captivating performance. She plays a woman – Joanna – who is slowly going mad from her cramped living situation, neglect from her actor husband Geoff (played by Mark Matechuk), and the ominous sensation suggesting darkness could be looming in the next room.
Points are awarded to director Ainslie and his team of filmmakers (including Canadian horror motley crew Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan, and Christopher Giroux) for creating legit scares out of their limited resources. Lots of thought has been put towards the staging of furniture, pictures, and decorative trinkets – hats off to production designer Vincent Moskowec. Through this set design, newly-minted filmmaker Ainslie shows audiences his specialty towards continuity. He knows how to make slight changes when he’s using itty-bitty details to build towards a larger payoff. Cinematographer Greg Biskup (who served as a camera operator on The Dirties) uses his attentive expertise with visuals to add foreboding elements to the overall atmosphere. All these technical puzzle pieces come together so well.
The story (written by Ainslie and Alyson Richards) always finds a way to make The Sublet challenging, but the surprises are sometimes unnecessary and don’t always work for the film. By the final leg, The Sublet becomes a snake eating its own tail with the film’s malleable universe collapsing in on characters. The spooky fake-outs are enticing at first, but the rising level of complication for our heroine has us flustered as well. Viewers watching The Sublet on television will be thankful they have a PVR – they may need to pause in order to catch up.
I’d like John Ainslie’s next movie to be calmer. The relationship between Nori and Matechuk is so convincing, it makes me curious to see what a straight marital drama would look like from the filmmaker. Let’s cut to the chase: bring back Nori and Matechuk, and make a prequel, John!
The Sublet returns to SuperChannel on December 11. Check your local listings (or click here) for more information about future airings. The film will also be available through Super Channel’s On Demand service from December 1 to December 31.
Streamer screens at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival on:
Sunday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m. @ Toronto’s Cineplex Yonge and Dundas
For more information on the festival, visit the official BITS webpage here.
Buy tickets here.
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