This is one of the films that, upon reading the cast-listing and the synopsis that I could find online regarding it, peaked my interest and was one I was excited about sitting down to watch for Frightfest review.
Directed by Riley Stearns who, from what I can tell, has only previously directed a number of short films, with this, Faults, being his first feature presentation. The cast, specifically Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Lance Reddick (Fringe) and Beth Grant (Donnie Darko) had me intrigued from the start.
We meet Ansel (Leland Orser) who is an expert on cults who had hit a brick wall and is struggling to stay above ground in his floundering career, doing seminars for nobody important in hotels that won’t even offer him more than one free meal. He is approached by a couple who ask for his help in rescuing their cult-taken daughter, Claire (Winstead) and Ansel, initially disinclined, agrees to assist them. He abducts Claire and attempt to “re-program” her in a hotel room, and this is where the film truly begins as we witness the responses that Ansel and Claire have to one another as he attempts to break her of the chains of the cult. The dialogue between the two begins as Ansel tries to learn about Claire and her role in the cult, but Ansel also begins to learn about himself in the process. There is also a side-story of Ansel owing his manager, Terry (Jon Gries) money.
The film changes at various times from appearing comedic or light to a more serious and level-headed tone and this was strange, it didn’t quite make sense and in some ways made the film feel disjointed and unfocused, but some parts made me laugh, and others were very interesting. Orser (Taken), as Ansel Roth, is excellent, his performance ranges from disinterest to anger to regret and he delivers his dialogue with conviction and a sense of bitterness that we learn, very quickly, who he is as a character. Reddick’s intense and blunt performance as Mick, Ansel’s manager’s “collector” of sorts is a blast to watch, and Winstead, as Claire, is layered and completely enjoyable, bringing so many emotions to the table with her role.
The chemistry between Winstead and Orser is great and the dialogue in the hotel room is written very well, providing interesting conversation, their glances at one another, questioning and curious, make us query both of them throughout. A broken man and a girl whose mind we are unsure of, and whose relationship with her parents is in question as the film unfolds. The seedy hotel, the questionable characters and the curiosity of whether or not the whole thing is actually even occurring created something fresh, something surreal, and something thoroughly intriguing.
Stearns, the director, deserves a lot of credit for not only how the film looks, slick and strong, focusing for long periods on one shot, allowing the performers to reach potential with their lengthy uncut stints of dialogue, but he also deserved credit for the excellent writing which takes the film to another level. An ending that some will be unsure of, but that I found fitting to the tone of the film, and quite satisfying, Faults surpassed what I ever expected, and is one I will look forward to revisiting in the future. I will be surprised if this doesn’t receive a positive reaction.
Of all the Frightfest films I’ve had the opportunity to watch, this was my favourite one. Winstead and Ansel crafted two genuinely intriguing characters that, in turn, brought about a fulfilling and fascinating film.