Fractional (2013)

I still remember when I saw the trailer for the original Saw film on television for the first time. Two men, trapped in a room just trying to make it out alive. While Saw didn't exactly live up to that billing and is essentially a "who done it" rather than a two man play. The idea always stuck in the back of my mind. I'd love to see (or more ideally write) a horror film that was essentially a two man, single set piece play. While my limited brain has never been able to effectively translate my imagination to the page and in turn to the screen, writer/director Malcolm Deegan has pulled it off.

Fractional opens with psychiatrist John Hatchett waking, bound, gagged and tied to a chair. Disoriented, he tries to free himself. He sees a table covered in very methodically placed everyday tools. He pulls himself over to the table and tries to secure a knife in vain. It drops to the floor. That's when John starts to feel the presence of another person n the room. He tries to communicate, but the other person fails to revel themselves. Desperate, John pleads to the empty air for help. Only when the tension has reached it's apex does his captor reveal himself.

David Crowe confesses to John that he used to be one of his patients, despite John claiming not to remember him. David calls his bluff and claims that John has a whole bunch of more lies that he needs to account for, and that David will not let him "make a choice" until he has sufficiently confessed to certain truths John has tried to keep hidden. And he has a table full of motivation to help the truth flow.

What follows is one of the most tight, on the edge of your seat thrillers, to come a long in a long time. Deegen is able to infuse the script with enough drama, enough twists and turns, to make sure that the film never once gets boring. But when executing what is essentially a two man play, the film can only be as good as the two men acting in the principle roles. Luckily for Deegan, he has enlisted two men who are certainly up to the task. And while Desmond Daly is certainly good as kidnapped the kidnapped psychiatrist, it's Peter O'Toole (no, not that one) that takes this film from good indie fare to something special. If there is no other reason to see this film, you should see it for his performance. It truly is mesmerizing.

No matter the film, great performance can mask certain shortcomings. That is certainly the case here. O'Toole's performance helps gloss over some inefficiencies Fractional has. The script is chocked full of twists and turns, which will certainly keep you guessing, but some of them don't really make a lot of sense. Maybe that's not the best way to put it, but rather it tries to be a bit too cute at times with how clever it is. The scripts wonkiness is not necessarily a deal breaker, though for some they might find it a bit confusing.

However when paired the performances are paired with Deegans ability to be patient as a director, you can forgive the scripts shortcomings. It's easy to go right for the blood, right for the red stuff, but that not what Deegan is about. He holds out on the reveal until it's almost painful sometimes. You just want to shout "show it to us already!" But it works, that sense of knowing a wound is there, knowing what's being done, but not being able to see it adds yet another level of tension, this one much more personal because it's happening to us.

Fractional is a very good psychological horror that's essentially a two man play set against the background of a torture film if that makes any sense. It's buoyed by good performances and great choices by writer/director Malcolm Deegan. If that sounds like your deal, definitely check it out. If you are into something a little more fast paced or strewn with gore (which I would have liked to see a little bit more of myself), this might let you down a bit.

Fractional hits DVD on April 5th via Totality pictures. Check it out and support independent horror.

***1/2 stars out of *****

Thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich"

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